Jen Davis, a photographer by trade, was inspired to lose weight after seeing herself through her own camera lens. Her self-portrait series began in 2002 as a way to discover her identity; however, when the 35-year-old Brooklyn native saw the photos, she immediately realized that her unhealthy lifestyle needed to change.
And so, Davis lost 110 pounds. After taking pictures of herself living life through ordinary activities like eating, dressing, showering, and loving for more than a decade, she realized the images didn’t truly reflect the person that she wanted to be. When the project began in 2002, she was an undergraduate student at Columbia College in Chicago on spring break and took her first self-portrait entitled, “Pressure Point.” In it, she is seen surrounded by her slender bikini-wearing friends on the beach, while she sits on a bamboo mat looking off to the side in shorts and a tank top.
“I had never really photographed myself but that beach shot made me realize that I had to step in front of the camera,” Davis said. “I need to look at myself.”
As the pictures continued and years passed, Davis realized there was no change in her body. She was reportedly trying to understand her identity as an overweight individual living in the world, and capture her life from the outside looking in. The 11-year documentation of Davis’s life revealed her physical transformation and dramatic weight loss after a Lap-Band surgery.
Laparoscopic surgery was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001 and further approval was expanded in 2011 for obese individuals. The procedure utilizes a long, thin camera called a laparoscope that is inserted into the band through a small incision in the abdomen, and a device is wrapped around the upper part of the stomach to form a ring, which can be adjusted using saline injections. The Lap-Band forces the body to lose weight by making the stomach smaller, restricting food, and making the patient feel full more quickly, all of which ultimately lead to less eating.
Before the surgery, as Davis approached her mid-30s, she became discontent with the way she looked. “It was kind of shocking, kind of painful to look at myself and to see myself evolving and growing and understanding a deeper sense of myself but my body not being able to change after nine years’ time,” Davis told Slate. “I was shocked and though ‘why can’t I take control of my life?’ and I realized I didn’t want to wake up at 40 and be in this body- I wanted to know what it would be like in a different body, and that was a painful realization.”
Lap-Band was her solution to a happier, less heavy life. She quickly lost weight with ease and started a new romantic relationship.
An estimated 180,000 operations are performed every year in the United States, and gastric bypass, a procedure similar to Lap-Band, is the most common weight loss surgery. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly one-third of obese American adults (35.7 percent) have found an improved quality of life just one year after surgery.
Davis's own transformation will be published in book form in spring of 2014.