When you look at the average weight loss story, you typically see a "before" and an "after." In the "before," you see a sad-looking person wearing the clothing equivalent of a burlap sack, and in the "after," you see what appears to be a completely different person who is happier than they've ever been. Photographer Julia Kozerski's weight loss portrait series is not like those glossy, airbrushed photos—on the contrary, it shows the difficult, often painful journey (and aftermath) of major weight loss.
Kozerski's project, Half, chronicles her experience of going from 338 pounds to 178 pounds, revealing not just her successes but also her struggles with "food, obsession, self-control, and self-image." While studying photography at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, she began going through this incredible transition—so naturally, she turned the camera on herself. "For many months, I was the only one to see the photographs I was taking, not even my husband was aware," Kozerski told Good Housekeeping. "Eventually I began to share the photos in my class critiques and was astonished to hear the outpouring of support."
The series shows her in vulnerable positions, often without the shield of clothing. On top of showing her weight loss itself, Kozerski sheds light on what losing over 160 pounds actually does to the body. She shows her excess skin and stretch marks, two things many people try to hide but Kozerski bravely stands nude for the camera, revealing it all.
The resulting support has been incredibly powerful. "I believe that the most overlooked aspect of weight loss is the emotional," she says. "There's a great focus on looks and numbers, and less so on how the person is feeling—I think that is where a lot of the stigma and shame come from." Kozerski's work has done much to fight the stigma of weight loss's effects, and she's received "countless" emails from women and men of all backgrounds sharing their stories, telling her how much seeing her project has helped them.
As for her favorite self-portrait, Kozerski tells Good Housekeeping, "The first image, '...or for Worse,' really sums up my reasoning behind starting such a lifestyle change." After Kozerski got married and was looking forward to a happy—and long—future with her husband and eventual kids, she realized that her weight could prevent that from happening. "It was then that I knew I needed to revamp my lifestyle and make positive changes that would not only benefit myself, but my family as well."