Comfortable in his Own Skin

I met Angus in 2018, ten years after he had undergone life-altering bariatric surgery resulting in the loss of over 300 pounds. Despite the passage of time, and the obvious health benefits of such a significant weight loss, Angus still suffered from the social and psychological impacts of having been morbidly obese for much of his life. He struggled with both body dysmorphia (the inability to recognize the real appearance of his body) and gender dysmorphia, owing to the rounded shape (and in his mind, the feminization) his body had assumed post reconstructive surgery. As a gay man in a culture that values and sometimes fetishizes physical appearance and masculinity, Angus felt that his body compromised his acceptance and connection within the gay community.

A mutual friend introduced me to Angus to help him see his body objectively through the dispassionate lens of the camera. We began gently, and over the course of many weeks Angus revealed himself and his perceived flaws to me to photograph. He slowly became more comfortable in his nudity, and developed a greater equanimity with his body.  What had begun as an exercise in self awareness and healing led him to a new vocation,  as a workshop leader specializing in body image for a gay men’s mental health collective in Ottawa.

The challenge for me, as the photographer, was to present Angus and his body without judgment — neither as beautiful nor flawed — and yet to create photographs that did more than simply document his form. Comfortable in His Own Skin is broadly speaking, an affirmation of body acceptance, and on a more personal level, Angus'  exploration of his body and sexuality and the courage he summoned to do so with me.

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