Legs, eh? They’re a funny one. They are the part of your body that quite literally take you places. They can take you dancing; they can hurl you off a diving board and into cool water on a hot day; they can (sadly) take you to work every single morning forever and ever… They were Jesus’ transport mechanism of choice. You can go nearly anywhere with your gams alone (well, gams plus a decent pair of trainers would probably be a better choice). They are noble, wonderful appendages that deserve our utmost gratitude and love.
And yet, especially for women, legs can be the source of much frustration and shame. If I’m asked on a less-confident day, they’re “literally the thing I hate most about my appearance”. The Evil DM’s Sidebar of Shame will generally describe them to you as “long”, “toned”, “shapely” if the subject’s pins happen to have those qualities in spades (and good on them indeed!). In these cases, women are not just, you know, having legs… they are SHOWCASING, nay, FLAUNTING. (A warning: don’t fail to take their advice to “show a little leg – just don’t forget to shave!” lest you end up subjecting the world to the offense of having legs while also being a mammal). However, for those who got a little more from their mamas, “shapely” becomes “chubby” or “wobbly bits” or “stilton legs” and therefore one must complete the four-week miniskirt workout in order to not be a total failure at owning a pair of getaway sticks (why yes, I have just Googled “slang for legs”).
But when you look around you, you don’t solely see the long, toned, shapely legs of celebrities and supermodels. You see a wild variety of shapes and sizes. Hips and thighs and knees and calves and ankles come together to form pillars for the rest of the body – every pair is unique and strong by nature. Ah yes. Legs. Lovely, lovely legs. And as if they weren’t providing enough of an outlet for self-expression in and of themselves, legs become a canvas for adornment. Tights and leggings are getting brighter and funkier and more unique, forever giving us options to flaunt or hide our stems as we please.
Enter the glorious project from The New York Times Magazine photographer Stacey Baker, known on Instagram – where she has 78.5k followers – as Stace_a_Lace. Baker spends her lunch breaks wandering her NYC neighbourhood, photographing the legs and feet of strangers she meets posed against a nearby wall. She has taken over a thousand photos now, and they are absolutely mesmerising.
At first glance of Baker’s Instagram page, I found myself stuck into familiar ways of thinking… Oh, she’s got rather large thighs… Oh, I will never have legs as toned as those! But after looking at 10, 20, 30 images, I started to see the beauty in the variety. Suddenly the curvier legs looked natural, strong, beautiful (because that is what they are, although we are never shown normal legs in that context). The thinner legs didn’t make me feel jealous. It was just a matter of everybody having legs, and everybody choosing to decorate their legs in different ways. (Maaaaaaaaaaaad props to the legging choices of NYC women, I must say!)
Looking at this glorious exhibition of legs, I am overcome with confidence and joy at the thought of the beautiful differences between myself and the sisterhood as a whole. This is a photographer presenting the female figure through a female lens. This is what we need MUCH more of in the media we consume!
Thankfully Baker’s project is now receiving wider attention through the publication of her book, NEW YORK LEGS, by Kehrer Verlag. Out this month and featuring previously unpublished photos, NEW YORK LEGS is a compact coffee table book for fans of photography, fashion and empowered women.
Baker’s body of work is perhaps the most powerful to come out of a cultural moment of technology, fashion and people watching. I can only imagine the potential for empowerment if she were to turn her focus to other areas of the body!
New York Legs is published 10 August by Kehrer Verlag
9783868286984 h/b £15
Post by Sarah
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