Laura Aguilar's courageous rebellion
“My photography has always provided me with an opportunity to open myself up and see the world around me. And most of all, photography makes me look within.” - Laura Aguilar
In her series of self-portraits set in the rocky desert landscape of the American Southwest, Laura Aguilar used her body like a sculpture, she is a human monolith. Her large body is draped on a big boulder whose shape echoes hers. It's hard to say whether she felt at one with nature or whether she was trying to disappear into it. By turning the camera lens towards herself, an obese, lesbian woman of colour, she shone a light on the underrepresented and marginalised.
I'm looking at this image and I am overcome with emotion. This is such powerful and unapologetic work, there is something very poignant and poetic about it. Aguilar visualised her identity and shared her experience of the human condition by displaying her fleshy folds in a way that is both proud and vulnerable. I had not seen such psychologically intimate work in quite some time, this honest representation of the female body has really moved me.
More than 6 out 10 women, me included, feel negatively about their bodies. You don't necessarily know it at the time, but it starts early. When I was little, I'd look at my Barbie doll's completely disproportionate body and hope I'd become like that. Today, young girls have to contend with the relentless bombardment of photoshopped and sexualised images of women. It all adds to a pressure that can be hard to explain or rationalise. But it's there, and every day it chips away at our self-confidence.
Untitled #107, 2006