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Body Appreciation

It's all body talk when discussing gratitude with photographer Marissa Findlay

What are you grateful for? When we asked this question to Auckland-based photographer Marissa Findlay, a healthy, strong body topped her list (right after her family!)

Whether she’s casting for an editorial photo shoot, a fashion week show or for a new Zambesi collection (she’s the daughter of Zambesi designer, Elisabeth Findlay), Marissa is renowned for celebrating the human body. So we weren’t surprised when for this shoot launching Great Full’s Bum Huggers to support Bowel Cancer New Zealand, Marissa decided to shine a spotlight on body appreciation. From an expecting mum to a criminal lawyer, she photographed friends that share her appreciation for the bodies they've been given.

Why is body appreciation important to her? Growing up in the fashion industry Marissa observed that there wasn’t much diversity in fashion imagery. “While the industry applauded diversity and all colour, shapes and sizes, the cold hard fact was that people outside of a certain box wouldn’t get booked,” says Marissa.  “And that isn’t good for shaping a positive self-image, or mental wellbeing in young people”. This also affected her personally. “Models sometimes had unhealthy obsessions with body weight and as a young woman I became self-conscious about my own body – I always felt like the little unseen photographer behind the lens; not glamorous, not beautiful. 

Science suggests that we are hardwired to focus on the bad things in life – this is negativity bias. By practicing gratitude, you can change your neural pathways and have a positive effect on your health and wellbeing – lifting your mood and cultivating resilience. For Marissa, in time she learnt becoming confident starts with a deep acceptance and appreciation of who we are as individuals, and this includes our bodies.   

“Sure, our bodies quite simply get us from A to B, but they are much more than that.   That’s what I want to celebrate with my photography – that bodies are incredible sources of strength and they are beautiful in all forms.”

Here, meet the friends that Marissa photographed as they share their thoughts of gratitude and appreciation for having a body that carries them thru life. 

Expecting mum Ashley McInroe wearing Flox's Cool Cat

Ashley McInroe (wearing Flox's Cool Cat)

Celebrating the beauty and power of the human body resonates so deeply with me especially during this pregnancy, I mean I’ve literally built an entire human being from scratch with my body which is just incredible in itself right? I’m due July 21st 2020 and this will be my third pregnancy, but first baby.

Being photographed for Great Full’s second project has really special meaning to me because my dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer a few years ago and I fell blessed that he is here today as a powerhouse survivor.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to see my dad meet my little girl, and for the bond they already have before she’s even been born (she goes crazy when he talks to my belly, it’s pretty cute!)

Liam Sharma, Editor, Sauce Magazine (wearing Dick Frizzell's Kingfisher)

I, like many, have abused my body. But I like to think I am becoming kinder, more gentle. I am starting to appreciate its nuances. I am less destructive. I’m just grateful to be kicking, to have a body that I can push to its limits and slowly but surely, grow with.

Lanu Faletau, Red 11 models (wearing Michel Tuffery's Woven Stars

Growing up, my body was the biggest source of all my self hatred and pain. The amount of negativity I use to project onto myself because I didn’t look like what I saw on the media was really damaging to me. Fast forward to now – where I am at a place of true self love and acceptance – shows me how disruptive my thoughts were. There was never anything wrong with my body, it was my thoughts around it and I recognise that now. 

Giving back to the community matters to me because success not shared is failure to me.

Hanna Moore , All is for All (wearing Ruby Jones' Sunday Morning)
Our bodies allow us to enjoy life and live – it’s so important to respect and love your body. We all have different bodies from each other, but at the end of the day our bodies all serve the same purpose. We should stand together and celebrate our bodies for what they are and what they can do. 

I am grateful that even though my body isn’t maybe what someone would count as 'perfect', it’s perfect to me because it allows me to live and do the things I love.

Everyone in the world is more or less the same and we need to be able to support one another where we can – being grateful for what we have, and giving where we can.

Kiri-Rose , Unique Models (wearing Shane Hansen's Life is Beautiful)
In my experience and growing up in NZ, Kiwis generally show a level of gratitude and appreciate creativity in all aspects and I’ve noticed that recently, since Covid-19, the conversations and actions around gratitude, self-love and giving back have increased, and we have become more aware of what we stand for [as individuals and as a country].  

For me, I am grateful for everything I put my body through and the resilience that my body has – especially my legs! I am all legs and these ladies have seen me through years of being a ballet dancer, track and field, rocking the runway/modelling industry internationally and contemporary dance. Being part of a photo shoot that centers on body appreciation gave me the opportunity to reflect and appreciate how strong my body and my legs are.

Amber Carroll , Make-up artist (wearing Misery's Zen Garden)

Body appreciation is important to me to set an example for my children: Love the skin that you’re in and respect your body. You definitely have off and on days as that’s normal. The older I get the more I love my body. I have worked hard and that gives me an even deeper appreciation of it. I love that we are all celebrating different shapes and sizes nowadays and being more inclusive. There is no one beauty stock standard. You have to embrace what you have and own it. I am grateful for my child-bearing body, which has given birth to my two babies.