Mary Gelman is a VII Photo Agency Member photographer based in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
In 2016 she graduated School of Modern Photography Docdocdoc. The most important part of her professional life is personal projects. She combines in the projects a strong personal approach with documentary and conceptual practices. Mary has been a winner of different competitions. She's the recipient of the Leica Oskar Barnack Award, Pictures of the Year, Portraits - Hellerau Photography Award, Istanbul Photo Awards, Andrei Stenin International Photo Contest.
The problem of discrimination against fat people in Russia is not made up.
Thay face multiple problems: rejections when applying for jobs, medical workers have a prejudiced attitude towards them, lack of large size clothing in stores, media doesn't represent them positively. They got paid less, being bullied and shamed. It seems like the world decided that they shouldn't exist.
Being overweight in modern society is not just a body type.
By default, being fat implies that a person is lazy, weak, stupid, lacks motivation, and spoiled. It's assumed that such a person would never be truly loved, would never have a happy family, friends and a dream job.
"No Shame" features various stories of overweight people from Russia who either experienced "fat-shaming" in the past or still face it. The subjects of this project are people of different genders, sexual orientations and occupations. They don't want to stay silent and tolerate the issue, that poison lives of millions.
Alyona and Sasha.
"Pig, sow, cow, oink-oink – I heard these words more often than my own name. In kindergarten as well as in school everyone insisted that I should quit dancing. Fat girl dancing - this is a scandal! Once, in school, we were practicing dance, and while I was dancing, I got surrounded by ten boys from my class – they were oinking and laughing at me. It was a lot harder at home. My mother was ashamed of me, my father used to beat me up. He believed that I ate too much, and always controlled me."
Sonia. "I was on a diet in a period from 11 to 16 years old, because everyone around me, including my mother, told me to do so, I wanted to be treated like everyone else. I used to spend almost every summer in day hospital under the supervision of an endocrinologist. I received an exercise bicycle as my birthday present, New Year's present - scales. I was bullied at school. Some children called me a boar and fat, screamed all together "Salo and zhir - Sonin kumir" (offensive nickname). Usually, I was bullied by boys, so I fought with them often."
Asya. «In an attempt to hide my breasts and fatness because of bullying at school, I started to slouch and wear baggy clothes. Nobody thought of me as a person, I was an "addition". When I was 15, I met a boy. Once he said: "You know, your face is 9 out of 10, but your body is just 2. I don't know what to do with it, girl, you should understand and forgive me". I was shocked. Time after time, due to stress, I used to stop eating and lose weight. I had dark circles under my eyes, my hair was falling out, and I looked like I was going to die soon. However, I really liked myself, and I often got compliments."
Masha. "When I was 7 years old, I learnt that I was fat and that being fat is bad. My dad told me. Once we had guests over at home and my Dad said in front of everyone: "You see, Masha is very smart, though isn't lucky enough to have her face and booty on the same level" I was shocked. That was the narrative I was growing up with. My mom was always on a diet together with her friends. For the first few years, after I started living on my own, I was pretty sure that it was normal for a woman to be on a diet all the time".
Dasha. " I regularly receive unwanted comments on the street that I should attend the gym instead of eating ice cream. Once a man hit me in the stomach on the street and said: "I hate fat people." He was just passing by, he was sober and decent looking. People often discuss my body parts and laugh out loud. As if I'm not there, as if I were nothing.
I often feel like I'm one of the characters of Bridget Jones's Diary movie. You always feel like you're dressed for a costume party surrounded by people in casual outfits. I don't fit in."
Anya. "Me and my husband, we have 10 children. I was afraid of gaining weight during my first pregnancy, so I often forced myself to vomit after eating. I gained weight quickly during each pregnancy but managed to lose it without effort after giving birth. Fifth pregnancy was different. It was difficult for me, I couldn't even find clothes that would fit me. Every time you feel if there is something wrong with you.
Olya. "I've always been fat and faced various problems. It all started in kindergarten. There was a girl who bullied me and tried to turn everyone against me. In school children called me hippo and fat what to lead to fights sometimes. Everyone was bothered by my appearance. I mostly socialized online, because people couldn't actually see me. I felt inferior."
Julia. "After my mother passed away, my sister started to convince me that I had to lose weight as soon as possible, that only a pervert could love me the way I was. I remembered this phrase forever. I was constantly trying to lose weight, I developed an eating disorder, I had a body dissociation, I was in a number of toxic relationships. When you're told to "hold on to anyone who finds you attractive", it feels as if the idea that you could be loved is being destroyed."
Sasha. "No one ever told me that it's is ok to be fat. I was growing up with an inferiority complex, blaming myself. My parents weren't happy with my appearance at home, I was bullied for my weight and beaten up every day at school. They would mostly hit me in the head or in the body. I was hiding in the restroom during breaks because I was too scared to be around my classmates. I was alone because no one wanted to be friends with a fat girl. All of that drove me to a nervous breakdown".
Marina. "I was fat since my childhood and immediately got into the "let's make fun of them" list. Even back then, I realized that I shouldn't keep silence otherwise I would be bullied even more. That I should defend myself. At school, peers called me fat and "zhirtrest" (another Russian offensive word for "fat"), it offended me. There were problems with teachers too. It is implied, that you should be quieter and lower if you are fat, but I was the opposite – active and spoke up all the time."
Masha. «At 11, as soon as I started to gain weight, my relatives began to notice it. There was an unspoken rule in our family: you are a good girl but it's very important not to be fat. My grandma would point out all the changes in my appearance. I would hear her say things like "Don't tell me you can't lose weight - there were no fat people in blocked Leningrad"(during WWII).
Vova. "From my first year at school, other kids called me a fatty and a Kolobok (a character from the famous Russian folk-tale, round bread loaf). They constantly made jokes about my belly and my saggy breasts. We had a group in Vkontakte (Russian social media network) where all the guys from my class used to chat with each other, and once they created a poll asking "What girl has bigger breasts?." Someone commented under the poll "You should've added Vova, he could also compete." It really hurt my feelings."