For local photographer and Our Voices Project co-founder, director and producer Jackie McGriff, it was a comment by a photo subject that got to her.
“‘My face may break your camera,’” McGriff recalls. As someone who struggled with her own body image in the past, “it broke me.”
It also was not the first time she had heard a similar sentiment. A 2021 YouGovAmerica survey on body image found that 60 percent of women said they felt completely or somewhat pressured to have a particular body type compared with 42 percent of men.
Inspired to take that attitude and create something positive instead, McGriff launched the “Galentine’s Day Sessions,” a holiday made popular by the TV show “Parks and Recreation.” In the show, female characters meet a day before Valentine’s Day to celebrate the love they have for each other. The show’s perennial optimist, Leslie Knope, calls it: “Lilith Fair minus the angst and plus frittatas.”
For McGriff, it is a way to find the beauty in one’s own body through photography.
“It’s a way of going into this year saying that we’re in this together. I’m going to step out in front of everyone and boldly say that I love my body how it is now,” she says.
“For years and years, I didn’t want anyone taking photos of me. I hated the way I looked in photos,” McGriff notes, saying one way to change that perception is to “take photos of yourself. Learn to look at yourself in a different light. Take selfies until you love the way you look.”
At the Galentine’s Day Sessions, she encourages that attitude and support in a group setting by asking participants to write Galentine’s Day cards to one another. A previous Galentine’s Day Session with that approach was met with appreciation.
“Jackie did an amazing job of matching our energy and meeting us where we were at,” says Tiffany Nicholas, a local entrepreneur, “but she also encouraged us to step out of our comfort zones when we were in front of the camera. I loved being able to spend this time with my friends and shower them with love and compliments, and I’m so grateful to Jackie for being able to capture that.”
While the “Parks and Recreation” holiday is set one day before Valentine’s Day, McGriff’s Galentine’s Day Sessions kick off Feb. 4 to celebrate the holiday even longer.