WOMEN–BODY–ACCEPTANCE

Polish artist Marta Karkosa uses the medium of photography to explore contemporary women’s attitudes to their own bodies, promoting the beauty and uniqueness of every corporeal form. In today’s exclusive interview, Marta goes in-depth into her book Women Body Acceptance, which intimately explores these themes across several generations of women living in a strongly conservative nation-state.

Presented photographs are from the Women Body Acceptance photo book.

“The photo book Women Body Acceptance is an intimate diary with the first seven heroines of the @women.body.acceptance project, which in my head was created as a photo book, but in the meantime engaged dozens of other amazing women from Poland. The idea was born out of the need to discover my own femininity, the love for the beauty of all women’s bodies and the need to investigate why so few of us accept our bodies. It’s a publication presenting stories and photos of women with whom I talked about body acceptance, their individual approach to the topic of femininity, intimacy and the perception of the female body by society. It’s also a journal with my thoughts and notes that I have been keeping for two years. There’s a ten-year difference between each of the heroines: the youngest, Maja, is 18, the eldest is my grandmother, 82. In this way, I wanted to find out whether body acceptance changes with age. The book was fully designed by me, starting from the concept and idea to photos, graphics and typography. All the photos in the book are made on colour and black and white 35 and 120 film. The cover is linen and screen printed.

INTERVIEW

Did this book help you find out whether the perception of our body and its acceptance really changes with age, or what differences exist in the way women of different ages view the body as such?

I learned that accepting your body doesn’t depend on age at all and it’s very individual. Age plays no role here. Each woman’s approach is different and it can’t be clearly stated that there’s a pattern. 

How did you select the women for this book? As I already know, the book includes the story of your grandmother, so are the people in the book your friends or your friends’ friends?

I was looking for seven women aged 18-90 with a difference of 10 years between each of the women. At first, I asked my friends and this is how I found 3 heroines for the book – including my grandmother (it was very hard to find someone around 90 years old who would agree in participating in such a project). I found 4 other women through social media.

Did you include yourself in the book? If so, in what ways did you work with your intimacy and self-acceptance, and why did you find this topic so interesting?

Yes, in the book I have included my intimate thoughts about my own approach to the body. In a way, this book is a diary of me and the seven protagonists. Why do I find this topic interesting? The whole concept of this project was born in my head because I was learning to accept my body and I subconsciously wanted to know why I hadn’t accepted it. The fact that I researched the acceptance of other women’s bodies was an impulse for me to look at myself, to notice that I have a body and that it’s unique. In addition, by surrounding myself with women I noticed that most of us would like to improve our appearance, or complain that we would like to look “better” or different. I wanted to investigate why so few of us women accept our bodies and where this feeling comes from. Is it due to culture, the society we live in? Therefore, with this subject of acceptance – I mainly wanted to find out why we are so critical of ourselves, and to show through photos that every woman, regardless of age, is beautiful in her own way. Especially in these times where we are still bombarded with the artificial image of a woman through social media. I want to normalise women’s bodies and broaden the perspective of the imposed “beauty canon”.

You mentioned that more and more women from Poland keep joining the project, so how is it continuing and developing, what are you planning for it? 

Yes, women from Poland apply to participate in the project and it’s amazing because it shows that women want to talk about how they really feel and that there’s no such thing as a perfect body. They want to show the truth. The project is still evolving and I’m doing photo sessions and talking to women on an ongoing basis. I definitely want to extend it to women from other countries to get a broader perspective on this topic. In addition, I plan to do cyclical workshops, where women will talk about mental health and body acceptance with specialists in this field. This project is now evolving in a very personal direction for me – I plan to expand it with a story about my own experiences and treat it as self-therapy using photography.

Is the book focused only on Polish women or is this aspect more because of the place of your residence? Would you like to work on this topic in other locations or countries?

Yes, the book focuses on women from Poland due to the fact that at the moment, I live and create here. As I mentioned earlier, I plan to extend it to other countries, get to know the perspective of women from all over the world. I dream of continuing the project especially with women in the Middle East. 

Where do you get inspiration for your works? Is there an ultimate place or film or artist that is a fundamental inspiration for you at this moment? Or does your work evolve spontaneously over time?

My main inspiration are two Polish artists – Alina Szapocznikow and Natalia LL. Both of them have created very feminine, brave and original art. Szapocznikow was an innovative sculptor who worked during the communist era in Poland. Her works, very personal (she most of all worked with casts of her body in polyester), showed the gentleness of a woman, her fragility, individuality and strength. 

Natalia LL, who also created during the communist era, as one of the few intermedia women artists in Poland at that time, created feminist art, very brave, showing nudity and sexuality, which is why her works were censored. 

I think that what inspires me the most is that these two artists expressed themselves as they wanted and touched upon topics that are still relevant today, especially for women.

How is the situation right now in Poland with abortion and motherhood? 

At the moment, the abortion’s right situation in Poland is very bad and as a young woman I feel threatened and I feel that my basic rights have been taken away. Abortion is legal only in the case of rape and when the life of the mother or the fetus is in danger. 

Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. We have had a few cases in Poland where young women died in a hospital because of the law. Doctors are afraid of doing an abortion, even though women’s lives are at risk. Despite the strikes and opposition, our right-wing government changes nothing and has no intention to do so. All this campaign against women and abortion is related to the very strong influence of the Catholic religion in my country and, of course, it’s a very political matter. Motherhood in Poland probably looks the same as in the rest of Europe. I’m not a mother, and I cannot fully relate to it.

Our current theme is “Full of Desire”. So I’d like to ask you what is your dream goal or what you desire for yourself as an artist right now, and what the ultimate success you would like to achieve is?

I would like my works to reach ordinary people, women and men, and to have an impact on them, so that people could identify with them and feel them. It seems to me that this is the role of art – that it brings something to someone’s life, that it broadens one’s perspective and thinking. I desire to travel, do projects and be associated with them, talk to women and show my art at international exhibitions.

The last question is, are you currently preparing any new exhibition or project we can look forward to?

Yes, I’m now working on the evolution of the Women Body Acceptance project and I’m focusing on my own personal body acceptance experience. I think this is the next stage after I have focused on other women. Now I will tell my story and focus on myself. It will be left in the form of an analog photo registration. I am also slowly planning an exhibition of the project, which will be expanded with my experience in the subject of body acceptance.

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Bio

Marta Karkosa is a young artist based in Warsaw. She studied New Media Arts and as such her interests lie in the topic of mixing visual arts, focusing mostly on photography. In her artistic projects, she works on the relationship between humans and bodies. The body, mainly female, has fascinated her for a long time and she works with it regularly, appreciating its structure, shape and material. She is looking for imperfections, naturalness, authenticity and the most interesting form that represents human individuality. Most of her work is focused on women, on the image of their body, its acceptance, delicacy and their relationship with their own femininity. She is interested in the psychological dimension of a feeling body and an individual approach and relationship to it. In her photographs, she shows that humans are incredibly diverse and fascinating, and that their body is their inseparable part. Through photography, she explores the body-human relationship and documents the real body image using the techniques of analog photography. She is the author of an artistic social photography project Women Body Acceptance, through which by photo sessions and interviews with women, she normalises the image of the female body in society and broadens the perspective of the canon of female beauty. Through this project she pledges to explore the subject of women’s bodily acceptance through discussion and action. For women, on their behalf and with their participation. She wants women to open up to their bodies through conversations and photos and not be ashamed of their appearance. 

Credits

Project website https://womenbodyacceptance.com 

Project Instagram / @women.body.acceptance 

Artist / Marta Karkosa @marta.karkosa

Interview / Markéta Kosinová @__maarketa__

Book published by @justnago

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