From fat to faggot and stupid to freak, labels are continually bringing people down and are easier to focus on than positive aspects. But finding the positive and focusing on empowering labels can be extremely difficult, said Clinton Sharp, which is why he and his friends, Ariana Grow and Echo DuRoss, started a photo project called I’mperfection Studios.
“I have always struggled with the labels people have given me in my life and I wanted to get rid of them somehow,” Sharp said. “I decided to write these labels all over my body and pick one true aspect of who I really am and focus on it.”
Along with the negative, demeaning labels scrawled over his body, Clinton wrote one empowering phrase on a piece of tape and placed it over his mouth. With “You’re Perfect” taped across his lips, shedding the negative and focusing on the positive became much easier, Sharp said.
After posting the photo on Facbeook, others became interested and wanted to participate, and so the photo project began to take shape.
“I’ve done photo shoots before and I like to experiment, but this is the first time we’ve taken on a project like this,” Grow said. “We loved the way it turned out so much and thought we could help others who are so beautiful but have a hard time remembering that.”
Every Monday afternoon, from noon to 7 p.m., the trio of photographers and artists open their studio to people who want to have a photo taken. There is no cost, but donations are accepted, and participants are asked to come with five to 10 words used as negative labels and one empowering phrase. The negative words are painted on the participants bodies with washable acrylic paint and the power phrase is taped lightly over the mouth. The photo will be edited to darken the background, while using a spotlight to highlight the power word. The caption, “These words are too often silenced,” and the power phrase will be placed beneath the photo.
The low-stress, healthy and empowering environment is open to everyone, queer or straight and the project is not specifically about queer stigmas, but labels in general, Sharpe said. Minors are also invited to attend, but require a parent or guardian to accompany them.
In just four weeks, more than 60 people have participated in the project, and word is spreading.
“It was just so helpful for me. I can’t even tell you how good it felt to start focusing on the power phrase,” Sharp said. “Somehow, seeing those words written on your body, you can start to see how they’re just words and how you shouldn’t let that define you.”
“I think when people first see the photo it can be a little shocking, but when they find the phrase on the mouth, it sort of comes together,” Grow said. “We want to bring out the best in everyone. After you have one of these taken and you put it as your Facebook profile picture, you’ll start conversations, people will want to know why you took the photo. It may be a small start, but change can happen.”
The photo project will continue indefinitely and those who are interested in having their photos taken should visit imperfectionstudios.web.com to contact the administrators and schedule a time.
“People focus so much on imperfection. But what they forget to realize is that in that same word hides the words ‘I’m perfection,’” Sharp said.