This Artist Reveals How He Views Body Dysmorphia Through Lady Gaga

Derrick Santini, a photographer, remembers how he was offered a magazine shoot in January of 2009 with a US singer who was unknown at the time.

“I’d never heard of Lady Gaga when the job came up,” he shared with BBC News. “Of course, two months later, everyone knew her.”

Gaga was currently getting ready to release her hit single Just Dance at the time she posed for the pictures — the hit song to be followed by many others and with enormous success.

Image via Derrick Santini

This is not the first time Santini photographed a high-profile person. Credits include shooting for Adele, Mary J Blige and Idris Elba. The Lady Gaga shoot was for the Fabulous magazine, a commisioned shoot from The Sun.

“Everything was slightly exaggerated with her,” Santini shared. “We pumped up the colours, we went for this very poppy background, these obviously quite full-on outfits. She knew what she wanted, she was really a pro, it was clear, she was so on her image and what she was doing all the time, there was no messing about.”

The photos taken displayed how Gaga not only uses performance but also fashion and art to reveal very different but very striking personalities.

And now, those same photos are being used as a part of a new exhibition about body dysmorphia.

Image via Meltem Isik

Body Dysmorphia is considered a mental health condition where a person worries an overwhelming amount over the flaws in their appearance.

And while Gaga is not only a champion for individuality and fashion, she has also been open about her past battle with bulimia and anorexia.

“I wasn’t aware of her issues back then,” shared Santini, “or maybe body dysmorphia as a term wasn’t around so much then.

“She’s had her issues with it, and I think it’s kind of like the general thing about identity, we are all self-conscious, we are all documenting ourselves all the time.

“And so this incredible introspection of ourselves is going on, so in a way it’s morphing in the mind – what you think you look like, how you think you appear, that’s the crux of body dysmorphia.”

Image via Daniel Martin

Some of the photos of Gaga captured by Santini have yet to be seen and are apart of ‘Identity’ – a London Zebra One Gallery exhibition.

Santini along with 10 other artists have been selected for the show — with all of the artists exploring the theme of having a distorted perception of one’s own appearance.

Earlier in the year, Gabrielle Du Plooy – the gallery’s owner, thought up the idea for the exhibition and started to reach out to artists whose craft she believed meshed well for the theme of her show.

“My own personal definition of body dysmorphia is not being able to correctly identify yourself,” says Scarlet Isherwood – another contributing artist.

Image via Scarlet Isherwood

“Having a really kind of warped perception on the reality of how you look or how you are in real life. And that connects a lot to depression and anxiety.”

Some of the potential signs of body dysmorphic disorder according to NHS include but are not limited to:

Worrying about a specific area of your body – particularly your face
Spending a lot of time comparing your looks with other people’s
Looking at yourself in mirrors a lot or avoiding mirrors altogether
Going to a lot of effort to conceal flaws – eg. by spending a long time combing your hair, applying make-up or choosing clothes
Picking at your skin to make it “smooth”

Image via James Greed

“Celebrities, especially on social platforms such as Instagram, are very glamorised, and also very warped and photoshopped, and I think people got used to seeing this unattainable figure, through these ideals that aren’t really accessible to normal people.”

Isherwood’s wants the exhibition to “allow people to step back and look at these things that aren’t healthy, and be able to kind of see that there’s nothing wrong with them”.

On a larger scale, Isherwood expanded upon on body dysmorphia, sharing:

“I think everybody to a degree suffers with this, especially in this day and age where we’re all constantly comparing ourselves with other people. It’s a difficult topic to bring up, but I do think that everyone has this feeling inside of them. I’ve met a few people with different dysmorphias. And I hope with this kind of show it brings awareness for that.”

Image via Metra-Jeanson

Identity opens on 24 November at the Zebra One Gallery.

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