As a fat bodied person, I am told that I must operate under shame and that it must always be present. I’m told I must shrink myself as much as possible. In 2012 when I stood in front of my lens fully nude for the first time, I had a radical change in self-perception. I realized for two decades I had apologized for my body. As my work began to develop I photographed with one question in mind, “What does this body feel like?” I began to answer by taking up space, and making a body that is seen as a temporary state feel powerful.
This work questions not just who is allowed to be photographed but how. Change is made by expanding representation. Who is permitted to take up space in photography matters. The image has great power in forming our belief systems. The absence of the fat body in photographic imagery communicated its devalued attitudes in our society. Worse is when the fat body stands for the grotesque or as metaphor to weakness and greed. These oversimplifications remind fat bodies that the simple act of taking up more room in this world is unacceptable.
In my images the body is at war and peace, capable of sensuality, quiet moments and small gestures. To look is not the same as to see and with each image I gain the sight necessary to proclaim the validity of this body. There are moments where I’ve hidden, ones also where I’ve stood strong. Over the years I’ve learned that this strength is not due to the absence of fear, but the acknowledgement of its presence. Each time I take a step into discomfort I open up a new place I’ve never allowed myself to live before.
Brittney Cathey-Adams is a photographic artist currently located in Portland, OR. Her work includes themes of body politics, fat positivity, and interrogating ideas of representation through self-portraiture.
Her work has been on exhibit throughout institutions such as the de Young Museum, The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, CO and Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco. Most recently, she was a 2017 Artist In Residence with Center for Photography at Woodstock, NY for the month of June.
Previously, she taught photography and created program curricula in the Bay Area for seven years. She is currently teaching photography with Portland Community College. With a strong passion for photography and art education Cathey-Adams dedicates herself to image making as well as sharing visual language through teaching in and out of the classroom.
all images © Brittney Cathey-Adams