"Bodies Mapping Time", 2008 - Present
“Bodies Mapping Time” is J Michael Walker’s ongoing project of collaborative nude 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 centuries 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, and the magic each woman brings. The rapport established in each safe and supportive session is essential to the results.
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 many 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 notice that issue. I just want to make the most beautiful portrait I can."
These, then – as their expressions convey – are images of power, trust, 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.
Statements by some of the participants:
“Participating in Bodies Mapping Time enabled me to drop into self-acceptance and self-love in a tangible way.” - Esi
“The moment I saw this body of work, there was an inner-knowing, an energetic connection to it and the heartfelt intention of its creator, J Michael Walker.” - Ariel
“As a middle aged woman, no longer in the body of my youth, sitting for the Bodies Mapping Time project was a chance for me to look at myself and say I still love you.” - Karen H.
“That photo session was the dose of confidence and empowerment I needed to wash away the disappointment I was feeling in how my body was changing. Seeing my photos, and seeing my body, what I had felt were “flaws” suddenly became beauty and acceptance.” - Laura G.
“Abandoning my comfort zone offered me an experience that was life changing. To gaze at these images and the moments that were captured continues to cause me to draw my breath.” - Marcella
“I felt I had lost the joy in my life. I was so sad and suddenly the simplest thing (a sneeze while I was posing) made me laugh out loud. It was as though the ice in my heart had cracked open and I was on a brighter more hopeful path.” - Maria Elena