Who Takes Your Body Positive Boudoir Shots? An Interview with Photographer Suma Jane Dark.
Last month, the Willamette Week published a piece about Portland’s out-sized footprint on Instagram. The piece claimed our city has more than our fair share of influencers making a living from their social media profiles.
I wasn’t surprised to read this post, but I was surprised not to see a single plus-size influencer on it.
Our city is home to more than a dozen amazing plus-size influencers with followers in the tens of thousands, but somehow not one of them made WW’s article. Perhaps we need our own? (Willamette Week, if you want me to write this article, LMK.)
Should I write such an article, Suma Jane Dark would surely be included. Suma is a photographer, writer, and fashion blogger whose interests include body positivity, minimalism, and veganism. Her profile encourages one to live one’s best life, without shame.
I had the opportunity to chat with Suma recently. Here’s a few of my favorite exchanges for our convo:
What inspired you to launch a body-positive photography business?
I was tired of not seeing bodies like mine and my friends' represented in media. I've been reading magazines like Vogue since I was practically a baby, but it always struck me, even back then, that the people around me are just as beautiful and worthy of attention as the models in magazines. I wanted to create a way for people of all shapes, sizes, and ages to see themselves in their full glory, with the same style, quality, and glamour as we're used to seeing smaller bodies receive.
And why did you decide to build a following on Instagram?
I started my IG kind of on a whim. I realized that for being such an outspoken photographer, I was actually incredibly insecure when it came to having my own photo taken. I decided that if I want to really put in the work to accept my body and speak from my heart about the issues that really matter to me, I needed to live the path that I was encouraging others to take. I won't lie, it was really scary the first few times that I posted. I fully expected to receive mountains of hate mail. But when that didn't happen and people were supportive instead, I realized that IG was an amazing platform and also a place where I could seek out a community of like-minded people. It's hard to find body positive vegans who like minimalist fashion- but now they can find me and we can discuss things that are important with each other. It's pretty rad!
As you know, AllGo is hoping to reduce fat people's anxiety about going new places. Was there ever a time where you didn't go somewhere because you couldn't fit? (If you didn't know you couldn't fit, but you were worried enough about it not to go, I'd really like to know about that too.)
I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to flying- both from fear of flying and fear of not being able to sit comfortably. I also am a bit claustrophobic, so I try to avoid any situation where I feel like there won't be enough space for my body and that limits me more than I'd like for it to. Elevators are a big source of anxiety, too- small elevators freak me out a lot. I have taken up to 8 flights of stairs up and down from my hotel room before because I didn't feel like there was room for me in the building's elevator when there was more than one or two other people in it. There are definitely businesses that I won't frequent because I don't like the seating. It's not only an issue of the size of seats, but also the level of comfort. I hate tall chairs, bar stools, anything that focuses all of my weight in one area. I once spent half an hour Yelping bars to find the most comfortable-looking seats- we ended up at a vampire bar in Beverly Hills and it was epic. But I try not to go anywhere unless I'm 90% sure that the seating is adequate.
I've found that almost everyone I talk to in the course of building AllGo has a story about breaking a chair. Do you have a Broken Chair Story you're willing to tell? If so, what is it?
I don't have a broken chair story off the top of my head, but I do have a "frightened to sit down" story. When I was a teenager, my mom and I were shopping at designer's showroom in NY and at the time they had these glass-bottomed chairs (maybe they still do, but this was a long time ago). Of course, there was very little a) that fit me and b) that I had any hope of convincing my mom to buy for me, so I kind of just ambled around looking at things while she tried on what seemed like every item they carried. I searched the whole store for a seating option that wasn't the questionable glass-bottomed chairs, because the very last thing that I wanted to do on my vacation was to break a chair in a showroom that didn't even carry my size, but there were no other options. So I wandered around instead. I wandered the store for two and a half hours. I did end up helping a celebrity decide not to buy a handkerchief that was all wrong for his complexion, but I was so over everything at the time that I honestly couldn't have cared less. It's been like a decade since that happened and that designer still doesn't carry anything I could wear that isn't a knit t-shirt. And I haven't rushed towards any showrooms or boutiques since that aren't specifically plus size-friendly. I just kind of assume now that there are certain places where I'm just not welcome.
What would it mean to you if the world was more welcoming for people with fat bodies?
I would be able to move through the world with spontaneity and without anxiety. I would show up to more events. I would travel alone more often.
What does the future have in store for you? What are your plans?
I'm working on a Youtube channel! I'm very excited to help other body positivity-minded folks discover plus size fashion, veganism, and a minimalist lifestyle- or at least the parts of those things that could benefit their lives. My boudoir studio is also expanding and I have a top secret creative project in the works. <3