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Kiss it! - Signed

Kiss it! - Signed

by Abbie Trayler-Smith

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Kiss it! is the result of a long-term collaboration between photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith and Shannon, a young woman living with obesity. Over the course of 12-years, Trayler-Smith documented Shannon’s journey from teenager to adult — navigating friendships, family, first-boyfriends, prom nights, holidays and jobs. Shannon has been the central inspiration for Trayler-Smith’s long-term project, ‘The Big O’ examining the issue of obesity in school-age children and young adults.

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One in four people in England are obese, and figures from Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales follow a similar pattern—obesity is a bigger killer than tobacco in the UK. Research points to contributing factors of hormones, genes, long commutes, sedentary jobs, yo-yo dieting, sugary treats, and relationships with electronic devices all contributing to this figure. In spite of the complex causes, obesity is still perceived by many to be a failure of will and self-restraint on behalf of the individual—'just eat less and move more'. Against this background, Shannon allowed Trayler-Smith into her life to create this frank and tender portrait which forms the photographer's first monograph. Collectively, the images portray what it means to be fat when the response is often depersonalised, void of both understanding and the capacity to care.

'We talk about "people with obesity," not "obese people;" a phrasing that is more about identity…obesity, like asthma, is something that happens to a person—a disease with many etymologies, not all of them well understood…Embedded in the stigmatization of obesity is the idea that this is something that people have done to themselves; that is not the way to understand it.' - William Dietz, director of the Stop Obesity Alliance at George Washington University, United States

Published June 2023
Texts by Sally Williams and Abbie Trayler-Smith
209 x 250 mm
112pp, 70 images
ISBN 978-1-915423-06-1

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  • Photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith was born in Wales and is based between London and the Southwest of the UK whilst working all over the world. Recently she has worked in the aftermath of conflicts in Iraq and Darfur; covered environmental activism in the Antarctic and the Indian Ocean; chronicled the national celebrations for Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee, and a few months later, the public mourning for her passing.

    Trayler-Smith is often commissioned by organisations such as Greenpeace, The Samaritans, Oxfam, Save The Children, IRC, UNICEF, alongside clients including as BBC, Sony, Novo Nordisk. In addition, she works on assignments for leading international media organisations. Trayler-Smith's work has been shortlisted for Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery in London, and a World Press Photo Award.

  • 'At age eleven, I felt judged, criticised, and not approved of… others saw only my imperfect body, not the fact that I was funny and clever and warm. I came to believe that if I wasn't fat, somehow everything else in my life would be problem-free. As I stepped into adolescence, all of this became my identity. Fast forward to the age of thirty-three. I was working as a photographer at a press conference for a launch of health services to teenagers and there she was—Shannon, with a voice I had never found, reading a poem addressed to the professionals, pleading to be understood and not judged. I saw the mutuality between us and the difference. She was the brave teenager I had never been able to be.'

    'We can see the ways in which Shannon's life is changed... and maybe more importantly, the ways in which she refuses to allow it to be changed. In the photographs of her extraordinary, ordinary life, we see not only her story but the story of anyone who has grown up feeling as though they are somehow different. Her brave, relentlessly infectious energy gives us a window of empathy and understanding into a subject that requires it more than ever and which isn't going away.'

    - Abbie Trayler-Smith