When I first looked at Yossi Loloi’s “Full Beauty” project, I felt conflicted, and, admittedly, a little irritated. Loloi’s whole mission statement is something we, as women, are constantly being reminded of– how the media is a horrible liar, how all women’s bodies are beautiful, how the art world is sexist too, and how we need to subvert to change and love our bodies, love ourselves. Right? Right! So, how might we do this? According to Loloi, one way, is to examine unconventional imagery such as his own collection of beautiful obese women, commercially lit in relaxed settings.
Of his intention, Loloi’s website states, “I focus on their fullness and femininity, as a form of protest against discrimination set by media and by today’s society. What larger women embody to me is simply a different form of beauty. I believe we own ‘freedom of taste’ and one shouldn’t be reluctant of expressing his inclination towards it. Limiting this freedom is living in a dictatorship of esthetics.”
What Loloi says is not horrible, not terrible. It’s quick, easy, and makes perfect sense. Scroll through the photos and you will see that these women certainly are strong and brave to share bodies that, on the surface, are not generally appreciated. I love the female subjects for embracing this. In fact, the women’s bravery is the most redeeming aspect of this project.
However, Loloi’s work also feels confusing to me– limiting. I want to know more. How specifically are these obese women beautiful to him? Why these particular bodies? What is his own relationship to obesity? How does beauty relate to sexuality? How do these larger bodies deepen and how do they cope with not only societal scorn, but also health issues?
This is where my mind goes. It’s hard for me to simply just digest that the images are beautiful because I am told that they are different. I need more sustenance, otherwise it feels surfacy or fetishy . . . then again, perhaps, I don’t know, maybe this is the point– Loloi’s work could be more about bringing a certain sexual taste into the mainstream, and if so, well then, there’s a talking point.
Regardless, I found this series valuable because it forced me to evaluate my own sense of “beauty” in relation to bodies, not because Loloi has “taught” me about how beautiful obesity is nor because he opened my sexual palette, but because my questions and reactions led to a certain meditation: how sometimes, bodies are the most gorgeous in the wake of surviving some type of trauma, emotional or physical. There is power in that kind of strength, a deepening that goes beyond the surface and I hope to see more complex depictions of that nature in the future, to understand or relate, not just retaliate.