Rosanne Olson's new book on female body image
Sharing innermost thoughts with others can leave one feeling exposed, vulnerable — naked, even. These feelings can be even more intense when the subject is the person's own body. But the catharsis can also make a person stronger and more confident.
This theme was made literal in a recent project by Seattle fine-art and commercial photographer Rosanne Olson. Her first book, "This Is Who I Am," released in April 2008, is a collection of black-and-white nude studies of women — none of whom are professional models — from all ages, races, body types and walks of life. Juxtaposed with each photo are the stories of each woman as they courageously discuss their bodies with unflinching honesty.
The genesis of the project came from a woman Olson had met who had been diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. The woman had developed a new appreciation for her fragile body and wanted Olson to take a nude photograph of her as a memento before her surgery.
Olson, who had had a career in nuclear medicine during her early 20s, had seen many cancer patients go through a similar transformation because of their illnesses. She wanted to see if other women could have this same kind of revelation about themselves while they were still healthy.
In 2002, she began asking her friends if they would like to pose nude and discuss their experiences with body image. Eventually, through recommendations, the project grew to include dozens of other women from around the country.
"I had never done very many nudes before, but I was very much in love with people and their stories," says Olson, who has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. "People are so supercritical of themselves. It took some women several years to decide to open up about their personal feelings."
This summer Olson is taking part in a book tour, giving readings at various cities in California, New Mexico and Washington. For more information on the project, visit bodyimagebook.
To see more of Olson's work, visit rosanneolson.com.