Nudity is everywhere. It’s on the covers of magazines, it’s on Instagram, and it is most definitely on Tumblr. You might say, well I’m naked all the time, so what?, but there is reason to suspect that self-confidence through naked visibility is a strengthening movement. (It’s why #BeBodyAware has become popular, and why Em Ford had the confidence to speak out to her haters.)
More and more, we’re seeing people fight for the nipple. Increasingly, we’re seeing men, women and trans people own their bodies, whichever form they take. And just accepting yourself creates visibility – the Internet has made that a certainty. It’s this nudity + diversity = visibility formula that’s definitely one of the reasons why Toronto-based independent weekly NOW magazine is getting international attention for its 2016 body issue. Here’s the cover, featuring trans rights activist Biko Beauttah:
Sabrina Maddeaux, the fashion and design writer from NOW who helped conceive of the idea for the publication, tells us, “It’s all about positivity and self-acceptance rather than changing yourself or wanting to look like something you’re not. People connect with that.”
And they do. It isn’t every day that a local indie publication gets picked up by People, the Daily Mail and more. She’s adds, “[readers] like seeing people and stories they can relate to on some level rather than just another model, celebrity, or athlete.”
But it hasn’t been all roses. This photo of Tiq and Kim Katrin Milan (below) has not been 100 per cent well-received. NOW editor-in-chief Susan G. Cole tells us, “Facebook suspended Kim Milan’s page because of the nudity. I’m really angry about that.” It’s unfortunate, since we certainly think this shot from photographer Tanja Tiziana is gorgeous:
Tiq and Kim Katrin Milan, shot by Tanja Tiziana
Like any piece that ends up in a magazine or newspaper, a lot of material has to be cut for space. And that means a lot of gold getting swept up and tossed in a bin. Maddeaux says, some of her favourite quotes come when she asks subjects what their favourite part of their body is. “The question actually stumps quite a few subjects at first because they’ve never thought about it or been asked, which is astounding. We get answers that range from people’s broad chests, to their strong butts, to small things like their ears and wrists.”
Drummer Stephen Bowles, shot by Tanja Tiziana
As for how they convince people to get buck naked for a well-circulated newspaper? “It’s a really big ask in our culture to put yourself out there like this. People have insecurities and worry about their careers and what their families will think,” Maddeaux says. “But we’ve been very lucky to find subjects who are excited to participate…Of course many of them are nervous at first, but afterwards many say it was one of the most liberating experiences of their lives.”
Next Stage Theatre Fest’s Chiamaka Umeh, Esther Jun and Rebecca Perry, shot by Tanja Tiziana
If you’re going to do a story on body diversity, there should be diversity. This is a fact that NOW addressed immediately, head-on. “The inspiration also came from some other prominent magazines’ naked photoshoots that always seemed to feature cisgender, white, fit people. We felt we could make our own version that was infinitely more inspiring and diverse.”
Coordinator of Black Queer Youth (BQY), Essence and Get Out at Sherbourne Health Centre, shot by Tanja Tiziana
This is a considerable triumph for NOW, because a lot of the time we’re asked to accept a body type, it’s through an A-list vehicle, like, for example, Amy Schumer. But when you peel back the layers, and turn your attention away from popular culture for a moment, you see it right in front of you: difference. And it’s beautiful.
Bo Hedges, co-captain of Canada’s wheelchair basketball team, shot by Tanja Tiziana
And this isn’t the first time NOW has done a body issue. In 2015, they did the same with other subjects, which was just as compelling.
Amanda Scriver and Yuli Scheidt, co-founders of Fat Girl Food Squad, shot by Tanja Tiziana for the 2015 body issue
But how does NOW plan to move forward with the package? It “will be an annual thing for NOW. Next year we want to expand on the types of people photographed. There are endless body types and body experiences for us to share, and we’re excited to discover those and share them with our readers. For example, we haven’t had anyone over the age of 60 pose for us. We’d love to find something in that age group.”
It’s exciting to know that it will be back, because it means more of this:
Mother and human rights activist Aiko Maroon, shot by Tanja Tiziana
Activist, burlesque performer, writer and stewardess Xica Ducharme, shot by Tanja Tiziana
For all the interviews and photos, check ’em out at NOW.