The Real Unphotoshopped Me. ~ Liz Arch Photographed by Robert Sturman

Via elephant journal
on Jun 26, 2013
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 Update: Gorgeous Video Footage of the Liz Arch/Robert Sturman Getty Villa Shoot.

Bonus: Want more raw reality? “Rare, Magical Footage Captured of a Liz Arch/Robert Sturman Shoot.”

There are parts of ourselves we try to hide because somewhere along the way, we created the idea that we are alone in our flaws.

We flip through magazines and see gorgeous models with perfect bodies, then we look in the mirror and feel less than. The photo above shows much more than I would ever normally feel comfortable displaying, but I share it today with the hope that we can stop comparing ourselves to others and start loving ourselves for the beautifully flawed masterpieces that we truly are.

A photographer once told me that even the models on magazine covers wish they looked like their own images.  As a yoga teacher who has appeared in my own fair share of photo spreads and magazines, I can vouch for that. I have been told not to “overindulge at the salad bar” before big shoots and I’ve often wondered why I suffer through last minute juice cleanses and spray tans, when the final images are always photoshopped to erase my imperfections.

Sure, my ego loves looking at these “perfect” photoshopped images of myself, but these images aren’t the real me.  I have cellulite and stretch marks and days when I skip my yoga mat for the couch and a pint of ice cream. But in our social media driven world, where everybody’s life seems so much glossier than our own, we’ve managed to convince ourselves that real is not beautiful and every photo needs a filter. I’m definitely guilty of editing my public life down to a handful of inspiring quotes and photos on Facebook that only show my best sides.

I never really thought much about it, until I started receiving messages from people telling me how “perfect” my body was. The thought of other people lifting me up only to put themselves down broke my heart, especially since perfect is not a word I would ever use to describe myself. So I called my dear friend, photographer Robert Sturman, and asked him if he would shoot the “real” me.

One of the reasons I have always admired Robert’s work is because he doesn’t do a lot of retouching. He might adjust the exposure of an image or play with the background, but you will never see a size eight woman photoshopped down to a size four. As a skilled photographer, he knows the body’s angles and when angles are not enough, he leaves all unflattering photos on the cutting room floor.


This shoot wasn’t about flattery though, so we threw the old rules out and created a new set: 1. No photoshopping of my body or face would be allowed. 2. All angles would be fair game.  3.  I would show up to the shoot as myself (translation: I would not starve myself, workout excessively, spray tan, or do any of the other absurd things models do before a shoot).

Here is the result. The real me is someone with a normal, healthy body—and yes, a normal, healthy body has cellulite on the back of her thighs and a belly that folds instead of lays flat.





“Everybody has a part of her body that she doesn’t like, but I’ve stopped complaining about mine because I don’t want to critique nature’s handiwork…My job is simply to allow the light to shine out of the masterpiece.” ~ Alfre Woodard


Robert and I had set out to capture both the beauty and the beast, but a strange thing happened that day. Out of over 400 photos we shot, there ended up being only a handful of images that showed my flaws. Ironically, after years of being in front of the camera hoping I delivered the “right” shot, I was actually starting to panic that we hadn’t captured enough of the “wrong” shots. I had set out to reveal the ugly sides of myself, but in shot after shot, all I could find was beauty.  It occurred to me that I could easily take a photo of myself at my worst—we all could.

But even on my worst days, while ugly is how I might feel, it is never who I am.

Doing an “ugly” photoshoot would be just as distorted as doing a shoot where my “beauty” was photoshopped in.

The beauty of this shoot is that it captured all sides of me and while some sides admittedly made me cringe, others absolutely took my breath away (see full slideshow below). For the first time ever on a shoot, I was able to completely let go of all self-consciousness and get really comfortable in my own skin. It dawned on me as I posed unabashedly next to a soft and curved statue of Venus, that my flaws were part of what made me an exquisite work of art.

“People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder.” ~ Salma Hayek

The next time you look in the mirror, adore yourself from every angle. Accept your flaws so you may identify with your beauty.  Let go of the obsession with your outer self and allow your light to shine from deep within.



























Images created at the Getty Villa and surrounding hills of Malibu on June 23, 2013


liz archLiz Arch is the creator of Primal Yoga®, a dynamic yoga and martial arts fusion class that merges Vinyasa yoga with the playfulness of Capoeira, the artistry of Kung Fu and the grace of Tai Chi into a mindful flow. She has over 10 years of experience in various yoga and martial arts styles including Yoga Tune Up®, traditional Northern-style Kung Fu and Yang-style Tai Chi. She is an athlete for Respect Your Universe and a proud advocate for A Window Between Worlds, the only national non-profit organization that uses art as a healing tool for women and children who are survivors of domestic violence.  Connect with her online at Liz, via Facebook or instagram @lizarch.



Like elephant yoga on Facebook.


Ed: Kate Bartolotta


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106 Responses to “The Real Unphotoshopped Me. ~ Liz Arch Photographed by Robert Sturman”

  1. KIm says:

    All the love.
    I see me in you and the possibility and scope of own beauty. So grateful…
    BEST to you. Thank you for the incredible affirmation and authenticity.


  2. catnipkiss says:

    these are gorgeous! and your YOGA is beautiful as well. I turned 50 this year, and wanted to do some tasteful shadowy nudes to celebrate my body, but all I came up with is, "I'm too fat right now; I'll wait til I lose the 15 pounds I somehow gained last year…" Maybe I'll be brave enough to still do them, flaws and all….

    Alexa M.

  3. hebaothman says:

    Wow, thank you, thank you thank, Liz. From women everywhere… all of us, so minutely connected to every curve, every muscle, every ripple… thank you for sharing your beauty with us and giving us permission by way of a beautiful reminder to just be our beautiful selves. To nourish and to realize that we change, our cells are alive at every moment, and we shift into different forms, and that's okay – that's beautiful, real, and it's more than okay – it's gorgeous. Exhale. Love.

  4. Amanda says:

    This is incredibly elegant and heartwarming. I am glad I have come across it. Thank you for such inspiration in the practice of life and of yoga.

  5. Nat says:

    Great – love it 🙂 Just so you know – on your profile the links to tRespect Your Universe and a Window Between Worlds don't work!

  6. Valeria Duque says:

    Really true, inspiring and gorgeous images and postures!
    Thanks for sharing them!

  7. Parisa says:

    This is probably my favorite post ever written on elephant journal!

  8. Nina says:

    Thank you. Beautiful!!

  9. karenleemacg says:

    Gorgeous photos!

  10. teekytwigg says:

    Wow – what an awesome article. Beautiful words and pictures. Thank you.
    ps. If you have cellulite, there's really no hope for me 🙂

  11. Mia says:

    I really dont view this pictures as flawed at all. There are only "flaws" when we compare our bodies to a models body. In extended side angle the flesh can get in the way and you see some roles. Ok if someone is really this than you wouldnt see that but thats there situation not mine. We only seperate ourselves from others when we think that models represent what a woman looks like. What if "models" happened to be curvy? I guess its all perception and I really appreciate the writing here and the staement but womans bodies are not flawed. There is no flaw.

  12. aecameron says:

    You are totally stunning, there is nothing to cringe at. Those photos are wonderful, and you look like a goddess!

  13. GCNYC says:

    Gorgeous and human. It is wonderful to share these pictures of you in your full beauty of being a woman. Most are already "perfect" but I realize it must be hard to go against the perfection that is supposed to be marketed and shared, but you are doing even more good and helping women love their bodies through your work and sharing yourself as a real person, in body and soul. Thank you.

  14. Neeka says:

    I went through my teen years dealing with self image issues, which only got louder in my mind once I started modeling. Quickly I realized the industry wasn’t for me and the 2 decade long built up began. I had two kids, 6 years apart which took away from the self absorbed mind, but then new things surfaced to be judgmental about. I’m glad in the early stages of my divorce I discovered Buddhism and my whole life shifted. Self acceptance became the focus. I still enjoy fashion (what I find appealing) and dress to be self expressive yet comfortable, but I’m relieved my morning bathroom routine takes no where near what it once did. I leave home with my hair wet and no make up most days, knowing my inner light shines through my smile and eyes, and that’s enough for me these days. I love my small boobs, and my gray hair speaks of wisdm I’ve excavated. Others opinions of me hold no weigh like they once did. I think falling in love with my spirit is what allowed me to see all of me as beautiful, just the way I am. Teaching self accceptance and possitive self image to young women is the journey these days.

  15. Rosemarie says:

    Beautiful & enlightening….thank you! .

  16. wilma says:

    wow!!!! you are a goddess!!! 😉

  17. JulesGalloway says:

    Brave and amazing!

  18. Kim P says:

    Oh, my darling so smart so pretty, Liz. I am proud to call you my friend. So proud.

  19. Natalie says:


  20. Marlynn West says:

    This was no doubt the most beautiful yoga photo shoot i have ever seen.

  21. shirleymaya says:

    Finally, we get to see the real deal, without all the gimmicks. So beautiful and inspiring! Thank you 🙂

  22. Jamie Khoo says:

    This is incredible – what gorgeous photos, all the more beautiful for the fact that they're real, and all and entirely you xxxx

  23. chrystal rae says:

    Thank you for being you and for the reminder, in the age of computer animation and photoshop perfection, that the asymmetry within symmetry is beautiful. <3 ALL

  24. Owl219 says:

    Gorgeous, but I'm still fat compared to her. There is no angle of me that is in any way as beautiful as this woman. So I feel glad that she has found her true beauty and give up on finding mine. Well, not give up, just never look at photos of myself.

  25. Bianca says:

    Yes thank you, for sharing I feel better about me.

  26. ninjababe11 says:


  27. Heather says:

    This is the second or third article I've read here that features a conventionally attractive woman presented as "flawed" and "brave".

    To quote a friend who commented on this piece in Facebook"

    "It's an ultimate mindfuck to have a very conventionally beautiful woman presented as daring, which can make you feel even more like a freak ("if that's cellulite, what the hell do I have?"). I do want to emphasize that all women should feel good about themselves, that our frustrated rant(s) don't negate that, but I can't help but feel very hurt by this."

    It's really tone deaf. This woman is by no means flawed.

  28. These photos are absolutely breathtaking, for all of the components: yourself, the landscape, the lighting, and the perfection of all dynamics combined—and all that is omitted! You are magnificent. Thank you, Liz and Robert, for sharing these with the world. Please keep doing what you do. Namaste.

  29. @TifanyLee says:

    Gorgeous without Photoshop!

  30. Debbie Lynn says:

    Refreshing truth – Beautiful images…..thank you

  31. Beautiful. And just the kind of stuff I want to internalize and help pass on to the next generation of women and yogis/yoginis some day. This spread already helped make a change 🙂 Bravo.

  32. Jenna B. Wiser says:

    It simply comes down to being “real” and “authentic” in all areas of your life. I do understand people being careful of what is posted on Facebook. For me, I have almost 400 ( maybe less) people who are “friends” and it amazes me what people pay attention to. Presently I have many people closely watching everything I do, what I post, even what I “like”. People who are not just my friends, but my estranged spouses family and friends, as well as my co-workers. There are SO many posts I want to like or comment on, but I know eyes are watching everywhere.

    Well, not sure how I got on a Facebook tangent! What I meant to focus on is finding someone you don’t have to impress, you can just be yourself, your exposed “naked” self is something I have always wanted and longed for. No one has time for games and trying to figure someone else out. That’s why I am always truly myself. It’s such a happy way to live!!

  33. Tracy says:

    Thanks so much for sharing!!! You are absolutely beautiful! If only the media could appreciate and portray women as they really are!!!

  34. Julianne says:

    Beautiful photos, so inspiring thank you

  35. Kev Taplin says:

    A fantastic article here touching on the theme of authenticity. It reminds me of the quote about never buying beauty magazines as they’re out to make you feel ugly. Yoga magazines are just as guilty as the rest. However, there is a far more serious side to this, as reports show that depression and eating disorders in young women can be attributed to feelings of self-loathing after comparing their own bodies to those unattainable airbrushed photos in the glossy mags. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  36. Gali says:

    who needs photoshop, when you look like this…. stunning <3

  37. Lee Heiden-Schock says:

    Truly beautiful work by both of you. Your work is stunning and beautiful. Robert Sturman did a Fabulous job capturing Your Beauty and The Beauty of Yoga… Bravo. Impressive.

  38. shawna says:

    How unbelievably empowering it must feel to totally embrace yourself and show the world what you think your flaws are, the things we think we`re hiding so well. I hope more of this catches on and to someday give myself the same gift. You are beautiful in every way 🙂

  39. oksunny76 says:

    you look strong, confident, healthy, and happy and THAT is what real beauty is!

  40. Dusk Devi says:

    I am gasping! So SO beautiful! The images. You! Yes. Goddess. absolutely! so sensual, so strong!
    …and thank you for the 'raw reality… it is always going to be more beautiful than anything photoshopped. Fact is… when people see you, they will see YOU.

  41. Kelly says:

    Thank you for being so thoughtful and taking the time to write and shoot this article. It means much to us who constantly see photoshopped images and compare (even if we try not to)….in these images, you have shown true, authentic beauty, you have helped us connect with you by revealing your human self. Thank you again. The imagines are truly beautiful and your honesty is refreshing and a true act of the heart.

  42. Alma says:

    Wow!!! Absolutely gorgueos.

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