This series is about body image, but also much more than that. I grew up being a bit overweight, so I was bullied and called all sorts of names. Weight and body image is something I have always struggled with. As I was developing an idea for the final project of my master’s degree, I began to question conventional beauty. What makes someone beautiful?

From the series “Every Body has a Story to Tell” © R.A. Tinoko, Winner, LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2017

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, why are we fed so much imagery about what we are supposed to look like? As I began photographing these women, I started to see something a bit deeper than a mere fashion image. I admire these models for doing something that I can’t; for being able to accept their bodies enough to put them on display for a camera. Body acceptance is a constant challenge.

This project has cemented the fact that I am a firm believer that our bodies are mere vessels for our souls. They are vessels that carry us through our journey on earth. Therefore, I made a conscious decision not to show my models’ faces because then the images would become nude portraits, and I want the viewer to identify with these subjects. A faceless body can be anyone or everyone.

Throughout this process, I received very positive remarks from the models. One of them was close to tears when she told me that no one had ever photographed her in a way that made her feel so beautiful—she said it was almost therapeutic for her. Another told me the experience made her feel empowered.

From the series “Every Body has a Story to Tell” © R.A. Tinoko, Winner, LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2017

As of right now, I have chosen to photograph exclusively women, but that may change in the very near future, as this series is ongoing and constantly evolving. I have personally started printing these on platinum-palladium; I feel that the subtle changes in tonalities lent by this particular type of print are best able to express the intent and significance of the images themselves. Platinum-palladium prints are skill and labor intensive—it takes a few hours to produce just one. They are rare; something to be cherished. I feel that these prints are separate from the culture of disposability and instant gratification that pervades our culture today, and therefore are worthy of my subject: our bodies.

—R.A. Tinoko

Tinoko’s project was singled out by the jury of the Emerging Talent Awards 2017. See all of the inspiring projects from this year’s 50 talents!