These images are from a project called In My Skin about young people under 25 in the UK who are challenging their body image. Michelle is looking at those who have had or are considering having cosmetic surgery in order to become more acceptable to themselves and achieve their ideal of being ‘beautiful’. Social consensus in Western society today is particularly focused on physical beauty and achieving and maintaining the “perfect” face and body. Intertwined with this she is also documenting body dysmorphia as young people try and conform to this social expectation resulting in eating disorders and body transformation. Lastly, she is documenting transgenderism and the struggle young people have to live within a body they were born into but have no affiliation with.
platformPHOTO: Hi Michelle, please can you tell us what has inspired you to create the series “In My Skin“?
Michelle Sank: A lot of my projects have centered around young people and the various issues they experience. This links into a very early series of mine called Bye Bye-Baby looking at the growing up of young people. This is once again deals with acceptance and a pressure to look and be a certain way that is represented through the media and embraced by celebrities and pop idols. It’s about acceptance and wanting be liked by others.
platformPHOTO: How did you manage to find the people featured in the series?
Michelle Sank: I met one person which in some cases led to others. I also advertised on forums.
platformPHOTO: How did you approach them and what was their initial reaction to participating?
Michelle Sank: They were shown my website so that they will be familiar with my style of photography and they were fully briefed on what the project was about.
platformPHOTO: For how long have you been working on this project? Please can you describe a day shooting a photograph for the series?
Michelle Sank: I worked on this project for a year and half. I would travel to their home, meet them, discuss the project in more detail and look at their bedroom. I would then discuss with them what they would wear, what the setup would be and then start shooting.
platformPHOTO: What message are you hoping to convey through these photographs?
Michelle Sank: To enable viewers to question the pressure that is created around this ideal for perfection at such a young age and how our values have shifted. On the flip-side, I would like people to see “transitioning” as a positive experience for young people who have struggled to conform to a gender that is alien to them all their lives.
platformPHOTO: Thank you for your time today Michelle. Here’s our last question. If we sent you to a desert island and you could take one picture taken by another photographer, what would it be?
Michelle Sank: The farmer’s wife by David Goldblatt.
To view more of Michelle’s work please visit her website: www.michellesank.com