Megan Nicholson's Body Project

In the fall of 2017, Megan Nicholson proposed an experiment: to document her body in the months leading up to her performance season as a competitive body builder.

Starting in mid-December of that year, we met once a week for 3 months, plus one last photoshoot in April after her season had begun. Our format was a 360-degree check-in, followed by figure studies. Sometimes Megan would come with an idea. Sometimes I'd throw out words for her to embody: hunger, lavender, dissent, shy. Sometimes we focused on the wicked-strong body that she worked so hard for — belly, legs, arms, back. Sometimes I'd just try to capture how she was feeling that day, which ranged from high-energy and playful to exhausted and discouraged.

At first I thought we were exploring themes related to womanhood or femininity or the binary of weak/strong, but after the project was complete, I marveled at the variety we'd captured.

We all contain qualities traditionally assigned to women or men: soft, hard, strong, vulnerable, protective. We're all a wild concoction of masculine and feminine, of emotions and determination, of potential and accomplishment and desire and fear. We think we know what those words mean but truly, they’re the most abstract concepts — subjective, slippery, nuanced. 

At the end of the day I wasn’t photographing “a woman” as much as I was photographing “a human.” A human capable of an infinite variety of facial expressions and emotions and thoughts, a human who is both fragile and indomitable. A human who cannot be neatly categorized, who is not this or that but both and… .

When I look through these images, I see the vast array.

portraitsBobbie Harte