Inspired by the iconic American Beauty photograph featuring actress Mena Suveri in a rose petal fantasy imagey, photographer Carey Lynne Fruth uses the same elements but empowers her subjects to showcase their various body sizes with graceful demeanor rather than just presenting themselves as sexual objects. She asked her models to express their authentic sexuality, vulnerability and complexity during the whole duration of the shoot to achieve the message she wanted to tell. “Body acceptance is important. To some it may seem anti feminist to create images that deal with the idea of beauty at all. But I think that we are creating a channel for women to re-envision themselves,” Carey Lynne says. Stating the need for photographers to step up to the plate to challenge prevailing notions she adds “Photographers are scared that if they do something all inclusive and different from the current ideal of beauty that people will not come to their business. Almost every image you see in mainstream media is of one type of woman, thin white women to be specific. But that is not actually the majority of women in our country look like. America is made up of all types of women. Women who are hungry to see themselves represented in a beautiful way. And why shouldn’t they? I think as a photographer its my job to show people how beautiful they are.”
How did the idea for this series came about?
I started this project initially because I wan’t to recreate iconic Hollywood images with more diversity models. I chose the American Beauty image for three main reasons. First because I thought it would be a great way to really show how diverse bodies can be and second because I knew it would be immediately recognizable to people and lastly because it was an image that clearly represented the male gaze. Plus, who doesn’t want to lie in a bunch of flowers!
Tell us the process on how you set up each shots?
I used a seamless violet back ground laid out on the floor. Then I would spread out the faux lilacs that I rented from a prop house and leave a hole in the middle for the model to lay in. I lit the scene with two lights, one from the top right and the other from the bottom left. I stood up on a ladder and directed the model’s pose first then if I didn’t have an assistant (only had assistance for some of the shoots) I would get down off the ladder and make sure the flowers were touching the model on every side. I would also use fashion tape to keep the flowers on the body where need be. Then back on the ladder I would hold the camera out as far as I could and talk the model through expressions and little movements.
What fascinating discoveries you had while doing the series?
I actually posed for the project myself and had a collaborator help me out. It was crazy to experience that side of things and realize how vulnerable it is to pose for someone. People really do put a lot of trust in their photographers and I think it helps if you can find a way to empathize with them and let them know that you really understand and care about them and want to represent them in a respectful way.
Did you noticed a change in confidence from your models after doing the shoot?
For sure. I had many of the models write me lovely thank you notes afterwards telling me how much they were glowing after the shoot and how beautiful and powerful it made them feel. Photography can be an amazing tool to reflect the beauty you see in a person back to them.
What are your camera / gears you used during the shoot?
I used a Canon 5D Mark II, 2 1600 Alienbees, and 2 Paul C. Buff soft boxes
Tell us about your upcoming photography plans?
I love my current job at Shameless Photography and I don’t see myself leaving it anytime soon. I also want to continue creating images that comment on America’s beauty standards. And outside of that I want to explore and photograph as many abandoned places in my free time as I can– I am actually going to a workshop with Matthew Christopher this month. I am interested in exploring more commercial work as well.
To see more of Carey Lynne Fruth’s other works, check out her website. To be considered for Photographer of the Day, follow us on Instagram @resourcemag and e-mail submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “POTD Submission.”