A Q&A With Fashion Photographer and Writer Anastasia Garcia

A Q&A With Fashion Photographer and Writer Anastasia Garcia

Anastasia Garcia shares her thoughts on the current state of plus-size representation in fashion and true meaning of body positivity.

Nadia Boujarwah: Tell us a little bit about your journey as a photographer, how you started, and what it’s been like to grow and come up in the industry?

Anastasia Garcia: It’s interesting when I was a photography student, I went to art school and studied photography, majoring in fashion photography. I just was obsessed with the great photographers of the last hundred years. And I just had this notion that I wanted to be this famous fashion photographer. I didn’t really think at that point, about the images. And how looking at fashion imagery growing up, was actually really painful for me because I never looked like any of the girls in the pictures. They certainly didn’t represent the women in my family or the way we looked. And so, when I was studying photography in school, I just wanted to be like one of those fashion photographers. I didn’t care that the pictures of the women I would be photographing didn’t look like me. And my first job out of college was with an e-commerce conglomerate. And I remember being 21, fresh out of school, and sitting at this table with all of these people who were 20 years my senior. And we were discussing the launch of the plus-size brand within that website.
I’ll never forget when the producer turns to the table and is like, oh, well, we can just hire straight size models and pin down the plus-size clothes to fit the straight size models. And first of all, that horrifies me, obviously. And it was one of those things where I just screamed and I didn’t mean to. I [said] “Oh my God, no. And everyone slowly turned and looked at me and I was sweating. But my boss looked at me and he asked, why do you say that? Why are you so passionate about that?”
And I just began to have a conversation with him about being a plus-sized woman. And how unhelpful it is to see garments on a body that would never be reflective of mine. It doesn’t inform the customer on silhouette, shape, fit. And he listened because I represented that woman in a way he could never understand. And so, he just inherently trusted me. And I’ll never forget, he turned to me and said, “okay, you’re handling this launch. You’re shooting all of the editorial imagery, and e-com imagery, and you’re handling the casting. Have fun.”
And I was terrified. That was such a big undertaking for my experience level, just coming out of school. But I was really excited, and that was the first lightbulb in my head, where I realized that not only could my experience as a plus-size woman inform my work, but it should. If there wasn’t a plus-sized woman at the table that day, that launch would have gone live on straight-sized models. And it just would have been a painful experience for my community. So that was the first time that I realized that I had something important to say.

NB: I feel there are three important lessons in that story that you just shared. One is the importance of representation around tables where decisions are made. Which is just so important in every dimension. Two, I think is the importance of speaking up, even when sometimes you may be the quote unquote, “least experienced person in the room,” or at the bottom of the totem pole, or wherever it may be. That you’re at the beginning of your career, the importance of speaking up about things. And then three, I think, as you come up in your career recognizing the pivotal role that you can play as somebody who’s just starting. By handling a moment like that correctly. And how much you can change the course of somebody’s career and work by really lifting up those voices when there’s the courage and passion to speak up. So what a great story. Since you’ve started, how would you describe how much the world of fashion photography has changed?

AG: It’s changed a lot in some ways and not a lot in others. I think right now with plus-size bodies specifically, it’s this tokenized thing where, maybe they have a curvy girl in the issue once a year or twice a year. It’s such an outlier, it’s not really the norm. And when we do see it, it’s not diverse body types, it’s one body type that’s celebrated. And so, I think that there has been evolution in terms of the representation that happens. But I think there’s just so much more room for us to grow, and so much exploring that needs to be done.


NB: I agree with that. We are big believers that you can’t be what you can’t see. Or at least that there’s truth in that notion. And I think that that is precisely the reason why representation is so important.

AG: We thrive on momentum. It feels like progress, because there was nothing. And now, even the sprinklings that happen, which I celebrate completely, and I don’t want to downplay it. Feels so monumental because there was nothing before, there was no other option. And you’re right we have a lot of work to do. For sure.

NB: So social media is also, I think it’s fair to say that it’s the birthplace, but correct me if you don’t think that’s true, of body positivity as a concept. What do you think of that statement? Do you agree with that?

AG: I don’t know if I agree with that, per se. I think there’s a history of the fat liberation movement that started in academia. Started with people who were studying feminist theory. And it especially was born at the hands of Black women who have really started this movement. I think even before social media was a thing. But I just think social media has allowed it to expand beyond those small bubbles of conversation. Go outside of academia and outside of the conversation in your living room, and become something that was visible to anybody.

NB: Tell us about why you think that has gained traction in the world of social media, and becoming a mainstream conversation? And how you view the power of that movement today?

AG: Sixty-seven percent of women in the United States are a size 14 and above. And so, I think it’s gaining traction because it’s just representative of the real majority of women. When almost 70% of people have a certain type of body that’s not being celebrated, and 70% of the people speak up, then, it’s widespread by default. And I think social media, that was the powerful thing. It’s like social media flicked the light on for you to see what was really going on, and how people looked, and what they want.

NB: Talk a little bit more about your thoughts around what it really means for body positivity to be a practice in your life day to day?
Anastasia Garcia: I think this is one way social media has failed us a little bit, or maybe not failed us, but body positivity is such a nuanced and complex thing. And I think one thing that social media has done is made it two dimensional. I think a lot of people look at body positivity and see it as like this destination that you arrive at. Oh, when you’re body positive, when you arrive there, when your car pulls up all of a sudden you just think you’re perfect, and you never have bad days. And you’re just this sparkly unicorn. You are a sparkly unicorn, however, being body positive doesn’t mean that you feel perfect all the time. Being body positive means you have bad days, and that, through those bad days, you make the choice to love yourself anyway.

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