The body is a very significant variable in how relationships are forged and interactions are made, even in the LGBTQ+ community. For instance, a more athletic man stands the chances of being considered “hot,” hence more desirable over someone who is perhaps thicker or heavier, even though the latter may have an even more charming personality. And, while this is a problem that cuts across sexual orientation, we find that it’s most extreme within the queer community.
People are shamed into feeling they’re less than, simply because their butt cheeks are cracked from a stretch mark, or they’re not a sample size or chiseled or athletic. We have allowed looks, and aesthetics occupy our minds so much that these days, it’s barely about how much a person has to offer emotionally and mentally and very much about how they look and how that reflects on us.
Being victims of body shaming ourselves, and being made to feel less than, we reached out to talented Los Angeles based, self-taught portrait photographer, Travis Geter, who has also admitted to having had negative body image issues for most of his life to document what if feels like in this current day to have a body that may not agree with mainstream’s interpretation of what’s beautiful, but that really rocks as we believe that there really is no singular definition of beautiful, it should be as varied as there are people.
Our writer, Demi Chang, speaks to Travis about his work and the inspiration behind this visual essay.
(A Nasty Boy): Why did you choose the name Forme for this visual essay, and what are its meaning and purpose?
(Travis Geter): Forme means ‘shape’ in French. Since this essay is about men in all shapes and sizes, it seemed fitting.
(ANB): How did you come to select these models during the interview response process? What were you looking for, and what was so special about what these individuals had to offer?
(T.G.): We wanted to explore the idea of vulnerability and finding the sexy in things people are most vulnerable about. Taking the subject’s most vulnerable moment—being naked—and exploring it, but making something beautiful with it.
I asked three questions to each subject that would give me an idea of how they felt about their bodies: How do you feel in your body when you’re naked?; What is the one moment when you felt most ashamed about your body; When do you feel most LIT in your body?
I wanted to show a range of body types and looks; staying away from the conventional. Some answers to the questions were sad, others inspiring. These men shared their most vulnerable moments with me. Some of these stories have never been told to anyone else, and for that reason, they were chosen.
(ANB): Why did you choose to explore body image, and what does this topic mean to you?
(T.G.): I’ve struggled with a negative body image for most of my life. I was really overweight as a teen and into my 20’s. Even after losing a lot of weight, It took me years to be comfortable in my skin. I think it’s important to have discussions about these kinds of topics within the gay community. Body image in gay culture can be toxic especially with the popularity of social media. You rarely see anything less than a perfect body on your timeline and I want to change that. Gay men obviously come in all shapes and sizes and each one should be celebrated. It’s important that folks are represented in a beautiful way.
(ANB): What do you hope to accomplish with this story and/or with future projects?
(T.G.): As a gay black man, I want to explore topics and narratives that are important to the community but aren’t talked about enough. Things that are quintessentially black, also queer. There will never be enough positive images of gay, black men; so I’m going to create as much as I can. I’m currently working on a portrait series,”Shades,” that showcases positive images of black men all juxtaposed against different shades of the colour blue. ‘Shades’ refers to elements such as international background, profession, age, sexuality, physical build, and personal identity. These are the types of projects I want to continue to develop. Art that matters.
Travis photographed Herve A., Donnie H., Michael R., Rich R., Thai, and asked them each these three important questions: How do you feel in your body when you’re naked?; What is the one moment when you felt most ashamed about your body; When do you feel most LIT in your body? Below are their responses.
I love my body way more than I used to and appreciate it more and more every day. I am at a point where I walk around naked when I’m home alone from time to time and just feel so good to be in the skin I’m in.
I grew up always being the tall skinny guy with the big butt, and I did not like it so much that I would always wear a longer shirt, a size up in jeans, and cover it up with my backpack. I still do that from time to time but into my early/mid 20’s I said FUCK IT! I was blessed by the deep African roots that live in my bloodline so shake it.
– Each morning when I give myself a good rub down, when I’m dancing , when there is no sign of pint up flatulence to release, when the shea butter is glistenin’ real right on my skin and when I’ve purified my mind with daily reminders on how I’m unique and I matter to myself before tending to someone else.
– When I’m naked, I feel my best. I feel natural and free. I feel beautiful. I feel sexy. Actually, it’s when I’m the most comfortable. When I’m naked and alone.
– The one moment I felt the most ashamed of my body was 10th grade when I was wanting really badly to get into entertainment. I felt like the rules of the industry were that you needed to be perfect. It led me down the road to bulimia. Sad journey…until my best friend told me I would ruin my teeth.
– I feel the most lit in my body after a good workout, dancing with my best friends, during sex, and when I can get a good angle. But honestly, every day… until I have too much cake and cookies, then I feel guilty. Other than that, I love my body!
– I am in love with the potential of my body. The fact that it can be anything I want it to be, makes me love it.
– The time I felt most ashamed was after driving over an hour to hook up with a total stranger and he saw my body from the window and called me and told me to get back in my car, he didn’t want to hook up with an “obese animal.” Looking back I wasn’t so ashamed of my body as much as I was ashamed of how he let me feel about my body.
– When I feel the most LIT is when I get inspired to put together a look based on something from a smaller or “inferior framed” (lol) person and it looks bomb on me! Or when I know something just really looks good and I spend the whole day celebrating it… Like: “dammmnnn calves… y’all showing off today!”
– How I feel in my body when I’m naked is sometimes in a good space or a bad space. I used to weigh nearly 300 lbs so when I lost the weight, the skin didn’t really go away. Some days I feel good and proud of myself for how far I’ve come. I still have that mentality I’m still fat or overweight but I believe it’s only mental thing.
– A moment I felt ashamed of my body is usually during the summer when I attend outdoor events sometimes pool parties, for example. Everyone in LA has nicely toned abs and sculpted model bodies while I’m tryna suck it in and hide my flaws.
– I feel most lit at that moment of first waking up in the morning and you notice your tummy is just a bit extra flat at the moment. Although I have a few flaws, I’m secure with my body and have learned to flaunt what I have and be true to myself. I feel sexy in a jockstrap and I feel sexy in a mesh. I think it all starts with confidence.