Combating Weapons of Mass Perfection – Meet Sarit Rogers, Part Two.April 7, 2015
The Yoga and Body Image Coalition is committed to building conscious community and highlighting the work that inspiring yogis are doing in their local communities and beyond. We’re pleased to introduce you to Yoga and Body Image Coalition community ally, Sarit Rogers.
Describe the images created by mainstream yoga publications and advertisers.
It’s slowly changing, but I still see far too much sameness and that limits the positive reach of this practice. We are addicted to the photoshopped, hyper-athletic, hyper-flexible, hyper-thin, white, female form. While there is nothing wrong with being athletic, flexible, thin, white or female, there is something wrong with that being all we see. The first thing I hear from a new client or middle schooler is: I can’t do yoga–I’m not flexible.
As a community, I want to see the cultivation of a different flexibility: the flexibility of our hearts, our minds, and our ability to stand beside each other to bear witness of our beautiful individuality.
How can we as a society promote a healthy body image for all?
For one, I would love to see a shift in what’s deemed “acceptable” in the world of advertising. I want to see imagery with wrinkles and rolls and dirty feet. What if we stop buying into the lie? What if we stop feeding the advertising machine? Sure, that may seem extreme, but we need to collectively change the way we see ourselves and the way we see those around us. There is also a critical need to shift the way we speak about ourselves in front of our kids. We have to promote a health body image in private and public spheres.
I’m grateful that positive conversations about healthy body image are emerging. I want them to continue and to expand and I hope to continue to be a part of it in my photography, the LoveMore Movement, and in my teaching.
How does your work address body image issues?
As a photographer, the conversation of body image comes up quite often. We are inundated with imagery that is severely photoshopped and outside of realistic attainment. The camera is inherently objectifying, so I work diligently to lower the lens from a vertical hierarchy and make the photo shoot a lateral, collaborative experience.
I teach one-on-one yoga to individuals in recovery, many of whom are deeply traumatized–ptsd, anxiety, depression, self-harm, et cetera. I also volunteer teach at my son’s middle school. I find the body image conversation coming up more often with the teens and tweens, but often indirectly. I work to create a safe space to speak about it openly, gently redirecting the negative self-talk to a an educational conversation seeped in friendliness. This is a permanent piece of my teaching puzzle.
Describe the process behind your 3 yoga book covers.
When I was asked to photograph the cover of 21 st Century Yoga, I was made aware that there was no interest in mainstream images and no interest in maintaining the dysfunctional norm of existing imagery. This was perfect to me, because I had been shooting vintage style pinup images with that same ideology, was deeply connected to my own yoga practice, and wanting to move away from where I was in my career. I’m glad Melanie Klein thought of me for that adventure – it was the beginning of one of the most positive shifts in my photographic career. Finally, I was doing something that deeply resonated with my own moral and ethical standing.
Celebrating the body vs making the body something it is not has always been important to me. We went through a lot of intimations for that shoot, starting with a stark image of a yoga mat on the yellow lines of a road. That image still strikes me as one that is emblematic of what yoga can be in the 21 st century: gritty, urban, real. It is not confined to the simple, yet manicured yoga studios in our communities.
We shot all over Los Angeles, adding Keri-Anne Telford’s beautiful tattooed calves and yogi toes to the image, and Joe O’Neill’s tattooed arm for the back image, making for unique, standout cover images unlike most of what we were seeing. Yoga PhD was a different adventure. I initially shot in a bookstore but we ended up pulling Keri-Anne back into the fold, and shooting at LACMA in Chris Burden’s Urban Light installation. It remains one of my favorite images: The grace of Keri-Anne’s Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel) in the midst of the stark, hard, metal lights.
When Melanie called me about shooting a cover image for Yoga and Body Image, we were crunched for time and anxious to get the image she and Anna Guest-Jelley envisioned for their book. I was grateful to Courtney Sauls, a dear friend and beautiful yogi, for being so willing to not only shoot on short notice but also provide a bevy of poses for us to choose from. That shoot was pure gold. We had a lot of fun laughing, being playful, and goofy while dealing with technical issues that inherently come up on a shoot. That’s what creating images should ultimately come down to: teamwork, laughter, joy, and community.
Why do you believe these issues and this work is important?
This new generation of girls is going to get lost in the fold if we don’t stop this runaway train. We have to shift the paradigm of distorted beauty and unreachable expectations. I hear 12-year-olds tell me how stressed they are and how much they hate their bodies, and I watch them count calories out of a deep seated fear of getting fat.
This work is urgent.
Sarit Z. Rogers is a Los Angeles based photographer, writer, yoga teacher, and founder of the LoveMore Movement. Her work is collaborative and inclusive: her clients are creative cohorts. She believes that her camera is not a weapon of mass perfection, but is instead a vehicle for celebrating authenticity.