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The Big Love Photoshoot Project gets photo-shy women back in front of the camera lens

Anne Francis faces her fear: the camera lens. (Photo by Devin Kearns)

In today’s selfie-obsessed, Oh-my-God-post-it-on-Facebook world, it’s hard to believe there are still people out there who don’t like to have their photo taken. Shoreline’s Amy Gentry noticed she started disappearing from her family’s holiday and vacation photographs.

“When I was younger I was tiny and what I would consider good looking. As I aged, had kids and sort of grew up, my body grew up too! I think I started to lose confidence in the way that I look.”

So she had an idea: to photograph herself and other people with insecurities, to make them face their fear, and turn the whole thing into an art installation. She calls it the Big Love Photoshoot Project.

“So I created a website and I created a Facebook page and I started to get people commenting from across the country, from Georgia and Texas and Minneapolis. A lot of the people who were commenting were outgoing, funny, cool people. And yet when we see ourselves in photos we’re so critical of ourselves.”

So volunteer models were photographed by professional photographers, and this week:

“We’re going to put them [in galleries] up for a couple of weeks and then I want the community, strangers, to come in, write what they see, comment on what they see. Because for the most part people say, ‘She looks funny.’ Or, ‘She looks cool.’ Or ‘He looks confident.’ But we don’t see it in ourselves. Then we’ll collect these comments and then we’ll take those comments and use those in sort of a final art installation.”

Forty-two year old Anne Francis is one of the project’s models.

“Last year was my parents’ 50th anniversary, seventieth birthdays, and we went to Hawaii. You will not see many photos of me on that. You’ll see my husband who’s fine with letting his gut hang out. I shied away. I will have all of these great photos but nothing of me. That’s sad.”

Anne can pretty much pinpoint when she went from a carefree kid, who loved to be photographed, to a self-conscious woman.

“I grew up in Texas, I came out as a debutante so I still wear lipstick to the grocery store. My mother, before I was born, she had a nose job. When I was growing up I was always told, ‘Well, if you ever want a nose job, you can have one.’ It made me, for the first time, very self conscious. I had this tick that I used to, before almost any photograph, kind of try and bend my nose up a little bit. Maybe it will kind of look cute and pert? That was probably the first moment that the 13-year-old self became the teenager who became the adult who was like, ‘Oh God, I’m getting my photo taken, let me get my makeup, let me see if I can fix my nose.'”

Anne chose to be photographed in a form fitting dress that she’s never worn in public before.

“It felt cathartic. I felt like I kind of exercised some demons that I didn’t really think had much of a hold on me, period. It was very calming. I did it. I felt like I was almost baptized by a certain amount of confronting myself.”

Amy says the photo shoots brought up all kinds of emotions for the models. But she says it’s worth it, especially since she’s raising a daughter.

“I don’t want to raise a young woman, looking at photos of me, saying, ‘Oh, I’m disgusting.’ Or, ‘I shouldn’t have taken that.’ Or not being in photos with her. That’s not who I am and it’s not who I want to raise her as.”

She reminds those who don’t like to be photographed who the pictures are really for.

“We have to remember that a lot of the times these photos aren’t for us. When we take ourselves out, we’re sort of removing ourselves from our history. Its like you’re allowing yourself to be erased.”

Photos will be up July 10 – 18 for comments at The Refinery Salon in Edmonds and Hotel Hotel in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. The reveal and exhibit of the photos, with all of their comments, will be Saturday, July 19 2014 at 8pm at Hotel Hotel.

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