Gillian Lochhead is a graduate student, a photographer, and a very creative millennial. She has always had a unique style and view on things, but the most surprising and inspiring is her project to learn to accept and love herself. Nowadays, social media, TV shows and advertisements show us skinny girls, with a toned body, thick lips, flawless skin and perfectly coloured and styled hair. The perfect Barbie doll, achieved if you can pay for it. Natural seems to be out of fashion on the big screen too, but if you dig further, you can find ladies out there who fight to embrace realness, empower women and show their real bodies. Just check out Gurls Talk or the I am more than project for this, as well as examples of self-love and body positivity.
Gillian started her projects ‘Laid Bare’ and ‘To the Surface’ in November 2017. The projects involve her own journey of self-acceptance and other millennials’ journey of baring it all in front of a stranger When asked about her project, Gillian believes that most women’s self-esteem issues are cause by social media, “We need to talk about female issues of body image, and this is happening. We are all part of the problem in some way, but we need to stop and acknowledge each other’s beauty”.
Social media has a huge impact on all millennials’ daily life and it takes time to realise that what you see on Instagram – which was the chosen social media platform by Gillian to showcase her projects – is not always reality. Gillian wants to keep it real and with her photography skills her main aim was to take photos of herself for ‘To the Surface’ – a project made into a book. The images on her Instagram are self-portraits of Gillian – dressed or undressed – to uncover her battle with eczema, and her own negative views and feelings of herself. The inspiration for the project came from female photographers who documented themselves, her own experiences of photographing people, and her time in phototherapy. The journey of self-acceptance through nude pictures of herself came with ups and downs, for example, she had to prepare her classmates, parents and friends for her Instagram to be a collection of nude images that everyone can see. Her Instagram account is public to let other females find her project and connect.
If you are wondering why it is helpful, the reason is simple; others feel less alone in their own struggle. When you share your experiences on social media, you will receive many different types of feedback, but you have to come to the realisation that this is your body and if you stand your own test in accepting your skin, your wrinkles, your bubble butt or saggy boobs, no-one and nothing can make you feel bad about yourself. “I know that I am doing it for me, and I’m doing it for every single girl who is somewhat socially or online connected to me, and if I’m speaking out about my issues and it has a small impact, that’s enough for me.” Says Gillian who also wanted to focus on the struggles of shopping for clothes as a curvy woman. The projects ‘Laid Bare’ and ‘To the Surface’ received positive, encouraging feedback. Her family and friends supported and respected her. The confidence and belief Gillian put into her own project came with only a little bit – she estimated a percentage of 0.01% – of negative feedback from people who did not understand the reasons behind the project or the implementation of the project. Gillian stayed positive and hoped that people who understand her message will feel more connected and encouraged.
The projects were showcased in the degree show at the Glasgow School of Art but that was not the end, “My self-portraits will definitely continue, I am always here and the things I face and find hurdles with – either my skin or stress – are going to happen. I want to speak out about my true experiences, so more young women will be encouraged to do the same.” Says Gillian who is confident in herself being her best model and best subject matter.