By Katiee McKinstry
Devon Dadoly is a fat positive, therapeutic photographer who uses their creativity and passion to implement trauma informed practices into their work. Dadoly will be featured TONIGHT at 8 PM ET on #BoldBossLive over on our Instagram, where we invite you to join and ask them any questions that you have!
- Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I’m a fat positive, therapeutic photographer who implements trauma-informed practices into their work.
- How did you get into plus size + trauma informed photography?
I’ve always liked working with my hands, so when I finally picked up a camera, it just made sense. It wasn’t until a few years later that I started to use self-portraits as a tool for my own healing. I used to avoid getting my photograph taken, especially by other people, because I didn’t want to acknowledge what I looked like. I wanted to act like my body didn’t exist, or looked different in some way than it really does. But once I took back the control, and saw myself in my own photographs, I began to accept my body, what it looks like, and acknowledge the space it takes up in the world. I knew that if this process could help me, then it had the potential to help other folks as well. Plus, living in a fat body has opened my eyes to the limited visibility of larger bodies as subjects of photography in general. It’s especially refreshing when I see fat bodies in photography that aren’t being sexualized/fetishized/tokenized, but that’s a topic for another day.
I’m also a trauma survivor, so it’s important that I carry that lens around with me when working with other folks. It’s especially imperative that I consistently work to reduce harm during sessions because being photographed, no matter what the subject’s background, or what type of session they’re having (boudoir, portrait, family, etc.), is extremely vulnerable. In my opinion, it’s imperative that photographers think about their client’s experience as it relates to their mental and emotional health and comfort.
- What is your favorite part of what you do?
I’m not a very social person, but this job allows me to meet and learn from folks I probably never would without my studio or social media bringing us together. Every session brings me something new to think about. I especially love boudoir sessions because they’ve been so integral in my healing and I love seeing others benefit from them too.
- What have you overcome to get to where you are now?
This is kind of a loaded question, haha, but I’ll keep it brief. Like I said before, I’m a trauma survivor, but I’m also a recovering alcoholic/addict. Once I entered sobriety and started recovery, it was like learning to walk again. Even simple tasks I was doing daily felt different – showering, dressing, dating. I basically had to start rewiring my brain after a lifetime of doing things the same way over and over again.
- What does “fat positivity” or “fat liberation” mean to you?
Ah. I talk about this with my studio co-founder, Mare a lot. I have a lot of critiques surrounding the current state of “body positivity” and how it doesn’t push “fat positivity” into the forefront enough. I could go on about this forever, but I’ll get to the point.
To me, fat liberation is the goal, and fat positivity is the vehicle to get there. Fat liberation cannot exist if fat folks cannot access the world in the same way as folks in smaller bodies. Fat positivity is the micro movements and adjustments we can make as a society to ensure that liberation is in the future.
- What advice would you give to someone who struggles with fat positivity?
I’m understanding this question to mean that the person you’re referring to is in a fat body and having difficulty accepting their body. In this case, I would suggest that this person be gentle with themselves. Fat positivity is sort of a misnomer. The “positivity” part of the phrase refers to access, not emotional happiness. Having a goal of being positive about and loving your body all the time is an unrealistic expectation for anyone. Lots of times, I suggest folks look into “body acceptance” and “body neutrality” for tips about body connection. Some other things that could be helpful are to follow influencers and thought leaders on the topic of fat positivity. We are always sharing great folks to follow in our stories on Instagram.
- Tell me more about the studio and the work you do there!
I am a co-founder and photographer at Manifold Studios, a fat positive photography studio and community space based in Philadelphia. There’s 3 of us on the team: me and my co-founder Mare (@manifoldmare) are in Philadelphia and our partner Kimberlee (@kimberleejphoto) is based just outside of Atlanta. More recently, we’ve been adding a lot of virtual community content to our studio. We’ve facilitated workshops on the therapeutic benefits of fat positive selfies as well as trauma-informed photography workshops for photographers (which I’m now offering consulting services for). Additionally, Kimberlee offers virtual reiki sessions, and Mare hosts guided writing workshops. (all of these offerings and registration info can be found on our instagrams and the Manifold Studios website)
- What inspires you to be BOLD?
I’m not an extrovert by any means, but I definitely feel a pull to connect with people. I think my desire to help people, mixed with my desire to burn diet culture, fat phobia, and all the intersecting systems of oppression to the ground is what gives me the confidence to put my body and thoughts out there. My boldness also comes from a place of being able to say “I don’t know” instead of trying to “be the best”. I feel confident in knowing that I’ll never be done growing and learning. Taking away the pressure of arriving at some “perfect, most enlightened, most knowledgeable” destination makes me feel good.
- What is your favorite part about photography?
I think my favorite part of photography is its ability to preserve a feeling or a memory. When my client sees their finished gallery, it’s just a continuation of the experience in the studio, and that brings me so much joy.
You can follow Devon & Others Here:
- The Studio – @manifold_studios
- Devon – @manifolddev
- Mare – @manifoldmare
- Kimberlee – @kimberleejphoto
Website – www.manifoldstudios.org