Thea Elder’s first published project, ‘Women as People (Not Objects)’, is an exploration of women and their relationships with the Earth and their bodies. All photographs have been taken on various film cameras (Minolta Hi-Matic E, Fujica STX-1).
1. What do you think is the answer to all girls being able to accept their bodies for what they are (ever-changing organisms capable of anything) at a young age?
I was watching this series the other day in which a group of six-year-old girls had a photo taken of them, and then were asked to Photoshop the images to add and diminish sizes. They were all displayed in a big screen and the hostess made them choose which one was their favourite and which one they thought they really looked like. The results were shocking. Girls as young as six liked the photo in which they looked skinnier, no matter how thin they already were, and thought they really looked like the photo in which they had added one or two sizes to the original.
My point is that I believe that it’s very important to raise girls who feel comfortable with their skin since the time they are born. This problem was inherited, mostly, by their moms, who are always complaining about the way they look and seeing only defects and feeling uncomfortable with their bodies. The best way to have girls accepting their bodies is by growing with women feeling good with the way they look. Children learn from their environment and they copy what they see. Having happy and proud women will lead the way for the future generations.
2. Do you like your body? Would you say your relationship with your body is considered “healthy”?
Before I got pregnant I was always comparing myself with other women, and even now that my belly and other parts of my body are growing, it is hard to not think about the way my body will look like by the time I have my baby. Will I have stretch marks? Will I stay fat for a long time, or even forever? I have never been a very skinny person. I’m from South America and I have always eaten lots of bread, sweets and fried stuff. Once I came to Australia, I started to adapt to their culture (healthy eating and full of exercise). My partner is vegetarian, so my diet changed in that aspect (not completely, I can’t forget my roots of gluttony). I also started to go to the gym as often as I could and I started to practise yoga (which I really love). I think most women suffer a constant battle between feeling happy with their bodies and blaming themselves for having a lazy day or eating that extra slice of pizza (but it tasted so good!). In general, I am in a healthy relationship with my body, I like it, and even though I have my moments of guilt, I don’t wake up and go to bed every day feeling that I’m being bad with my body and my health.
3. What has brought you to the conclusion that you like/dislike your body?
My body is changing and so am I. I feel happy with the way I look and I have decided to stay at peace with my body for so many reasons: first of all, I don’t feed it with rubbish and I eat what I feel my body needs (or what the little one inside me is asking for), which is mostly healthy food. I’m not even drinking or smoking anymore, so I feel healthier than I have ever been in my life. Secondly, most of the photos you see on ads are not even real, so the images we get from women are so fake that it seems like a joke to me. Third, personality makes a woman much prettier than just the way she looks on the outside.
I like my skin and my favourite part of my body is now my belly. I had so many complexes with it in the past (it was never flat) and now that it is turning into the total opposite, I love it so much. I feel more like a woman, and even beyond that, I feel like a goddess, I’m actually creating life. How crazy and cool is that!
4. What do you do to make yourself feel good?
Music has always been an essential part of my life; it’s my partner for life. I love to listen to my favourite tunes and when I’m alone I just turn it very loud and dance like there’s no tomorrow. I also enjoy being social, so meeting friends and laughing with all my guts really cheers me up. I guess it happens to most of us. Yoga always makes me feel so good, and in general, practicing mindfulness, embracing the moment, breathing the air, listening and understanding my emotions, feeling happy for the person I am and feeling fortunate for what I have become, for having loving parents and a sister and having that unconditional support. In moments of sadness or anger, going back to the memory of my family always brings me back to my feet with a smile.
5. Do you like to define yourself by anything in particular?
It’s kind of hard to define myself by something in particular. There is still a world of things that I’d like to do and learn. I do consider myself good at working with people, anything social. I am currently working in childcare and for me it is very easy to create trusting relationships with children. They also fill my spirit with their innocence and adventurous selves. So, I’m a good carer, for the people I love and those who need love and care.
6. What’s the “big thing” you want the world to know about you, if anything?
I’m the strongest woman in the world (I sure believe that) and there is nothing and no one who can break me down. I’ll face every challenge with my head up. I feel proud of my roots and the way I have lived my life. I’ve always been independent and able to do everything I set in my head and in my heart.
7. What would you deem to be your biggest challenge in life so far?
I think my biggest challenge in life is to be the person able to create change. I feel frustrated by the injustice in the world and to witness how it is managed by a small group of people who control what we can or can’t do. I want to raise a future-conscious generation, a generation that is empathic and cares and fights injustice. The baby girl growing in my belly will be without any doubt a big challenge in my life; I will give my best to make her feel proud of herself, to be happy and to always be a fighter.
8. Where do you feel most at home, outside of the place that you are currently living?
I’m currently living far from home, so home is in Chile with my family, where my heart is. There is where I feel much better. Australia is a great country, but it’s not Chile.
9. Do you think women have a particularly special bond with nature? If so, how would you describe this bond, and what relationship do you personally have with nature?
Women definitely have a strong connection with nature. Our connection is like no other. Just like earth brings new species into life and provides for animals inhabiting in it, I’m creating life in my belly right now. We are the means used for new seeds to shine in the world. Being connected with the environment is necessary in my life. I feel this connection as my mood changes depending on the weather. I live in the city because now it is where I have my job and my partner. My dream is to live out of the city, in harmony with nature, hopefully be able to live from it, getting to know her better to keep growing and giving life together.
10. What song or album can you always put on to bring you back to yourself?
When I feel homesick I listen to The Beatles, David Bowie (among other classics), some of the artists inherited by my dad.
Every time I open Youtube, I start with this voice that I really love. It comes from Anneke van Giersbergen, former singer from the band The Gathering. My favourite song is called ‘You Learn About It’. She is awesome; she can reach the highest pitch with a smile on her face, making it look so easy. She is unique.
When I’m in my dancing mood, Calle 13 is the band to listen to.