"Bodies Mapping Time", 2008 - Present
“Bodies Mapping Time” is J Michael Walker’s dozen-year project of nude, collaborative female portraiture, elegantly presenting women and their bodies through every stage of life – youth, pregnancy, illness, and advanced age. Working almost exclusively with women who have never posed before, Walker upends 500 years of representations of the female nude by inviting the women to collaborate in their portrayals, affording them agency in selecting both the poses and the portraits that represent them.
Since 2008, J Michael has photographed more than 90 women in a corner of his tiny Northeast Los Angeles studio, using only natural light, a few chairs and pillows, some flowers and fabric, the magic each woman brings, and the rapport that is established in each safe and supportive session.
Because these are not professional models, and no money changes hands, women participate for very personal reasons. Some seek self-acceptance and self-love, or to mark a major milestone; others, to create a record ‘before gravity takes hold.’ Women come to heal – from trauma and abuse, or a partner’s deceit or recent death. Cancer sufferers and survivors; women bearing the effects of illness and surgeries. The common thread, spoken by dozens of women upon seeing their portrait, is “This is so self-empowering.”
As Walker explains, “Whatever issue a woman has with her appearance, I don’t have that issue: I don't see her that way. I just want to make the most beautiful portrait I can."
These, then – as their expressions convey – are images of power and ease; of women comfortable enough to let down their defenses and reveal themselves as they truly “are” at this moment in their life journey.