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.



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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


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

  1. mamastenyc says:

    Bravo Liz & Robert! Absolutely stunning! ~Mamaste

  2. Robyn says:

    Thank you so much for this! Actually, just the other day I saw one of those photos and had been thinking about how "perfect" you are. I'm not saying you aren't actually perfect, but it's nice to see that you are "real" with some of the same attributes many women have. You are gorgeous.

  3. Tami says:

    Wow, Liz! Thank you so much for sharing these photos and words. So beautiful!

  4. k2theci says:

    there is so much I love about all of this. your words, your pictures, your inner and exterior beauty. what a message! A message that all of us need to hear from time to time, as a reminder. Thank you.

  5. I am truly moved. It has taken me years to realize that I don't have to train like a nut and eat like a bird to be the perfect image that in my mind a yoga teacher should be. It went so far that I thought if I didn't look a certain way that no one would take my classes. But I am a proud mother of two amazing and beautiful children(1 and 4 years old) and no, my body isn't perfect but it is real. I too have some cellulite and my stomach is not a washboard but I am strong, healthy, loved and beautiful! Thank you for showing your not perfect but perfectly imperfect real beauty!

  6. Gorgeous Liz! love these and even more so that you show the real you. kudos from one imperfectly perfect yogini to another. ox

  7. Rae Indigo says:

    Thank you for this article and the photographs. Your honesty is beautiful, timely, needed and healing.

  8. Teri says:

    Beauty, inside and out.

  9. Fay O'Neill says:

    Girl, you are beautiful! Props to you!

  10. LIke I mentioned on Twitter, truly stunning. I found the same peace and contentment in a photo shoot I did this week. I had FUN and it showed in my face, regardless of what else 'showed' of my body. And while I am sure I will 'touch up' whatever image I end up using for a cover shot, I look forward to looking at the raw versions of me . . . and loving them as much as the glossy images. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for sharing you.

  11. Pat Lovejoy says:

    What a truly beautiful and uplifting series of pictures and words. Seeing beauty in oneself is a great gift.

  12. Keren says:

    Thank you Liz! You are even more beautiful than the photoshopped pics!!

  13. Awesome awesome awesome! thank you Liz! this is what women e v e r y w h e r e have been waiting to witness! <3

  14. tierney says:

    so beautiful and real.. impressed, in awe and inspired. Thank you! This is what women every where need to see and hear!

  15. April says:


  16. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! It means so much to see a strong body being beautiful and *real*. I can't wait to share this with my students – it's amazing how viewing just a few shots of a real body can start to re-align our ideals with reality. Even as teacher, it's so easy to fall into the line of thinking that you must have a "perfect" (ready: unrealistic) body in order to inspire your students. Thank you for the reminder that a real, healthy, strong body is infinitely more inspiring. You. Rock.

  17. Que says:

    More please! These are stunning and gorgeous.

  18. staceywilk says:

    Beautiful and inspirational. Thank you.

  19. jennifer logan says:

    Would have been so much more effective if you actually had a plus size body…..when they start showing real women who have three kids and 9-5 jobs doing yoga in reasonable priced workout clothing then that will be a meaningful moment.

    • julian walker says:

      gosh i guess she can't win huh? either liz will feel criticized for not being thin and boyish enough, or for not being plus sized enough…. might it be enough that the article is about showing her real body without photoshop and being frank and vulnerable about her own body issues? is this not perhaps a bold step in the right direction of cutting against the grain of photoshopped representations of female yoga bodies? i think it is a beautiful, sincere and courageous act akin to the kind of small revolutionary gesture we need! viva liz, viva robert…

    • Carling says:

      I find it interesting these definitions of "real" women that go around. Skinny, curvy, thick, plus size, over weight, obese… we are all REAL women.

      Body image issues, disordered eating, the whole gamut can affect a woman (or man) or any size. Too skinny and not "womanly", or too fat, or curves in the wrong places, or in this case just because Liz is a fit, strong woman for some reason she isn't allowed to have insecurities just like the rest of us? I'm confused why as women we can't support each other rather than tear each other down constantly.

    • lostgypsysoul says:

      So to be a real women, I need 3 kids and a 9-5 job?? And have reasonable priced work out clothing as well.
      I guess I do not fit into that "real women" mentality, ONLY REAL women have plus size bodies!!!
      If you would like to show YOUR body to represent the selection of women who look and behave LIKE YOU….Please go ahead. DO not be a lazy ass and wait for some other "Real" women to represent it for you.
      She is baring herself.
      And unless you are a complete moron…you MUST realize not all women are the same.
      She is helping us embrace who we are….and that we are not all perfect. And she shares her herself with us….

      And here you are saying she would be perfect if she was plus size?!?!
      Okay…maybe you are an idiot!!!

      • Jamielo says:

        Nowhere in her post does Jennifer say that Liz would be perfect if she was plus size. Using terms like "idiot" and "moron" is uncalled for.

    • Jamielo says:

      Jennifer has a point. For all the talk about loving your body as it is, I see very few photos of…hmm. So much offense was taken at the implication that Liz is not "real," so let's pick another term. "Average" might be more appropriate. I see very few photos of average women in yoga magazines and journals. And Liz's body most certainly does not mirror the average woman's body. The "average" women's size in the US is 14. That's not plus size but it's closer to plus than not. Liz is certainly no size 14. And the poses she has chosen are out of reach for the average woman, the one with 3 kids and the 8-5 job (who gets to work 9-5 anymore?), who is lucky to find time and money to go to even one class a week, who often finds herself so exhausted at the end of the day that even finding time and space for her home practice becomes daunting.

      Everyone has an inner critic, and Liz, like every other human being, has had to work hard to come to terms with that negative inner voice. I believe she is sincere in her message, but I agree with Jennifer that images of an "average" woman revealing herself in such a way would be a very potent, meaningful, and brave moment.

      • Robin Lewis says:

        However, Liz is what she is. She is still an average woman – she has worries, family, problems, etc. She is real. She is beautiful. And she did this simply to show her own realness and to let others know that striving for that unattainable perfection while beating ourselves up has got to stop. Women need to stop hating themselves and others and just accept who we are and accentuate our own individual qualities. This woman put herself out there. To say she should have been something else is just feeding into the same "beat her down for not being me" mentality that gets us where we are today. To ask a woman who has her body structure to be something she is not (whether asking her to be bigger or smaller, taller or shorter, lighter or darker) is wrong – is all superficial garbage. The "poses she has chosen" show that she is a woman of strength, who works hard at what she does, is physically strong and STILL has (real or imagined) issues with her body. The poses she has chosen are wonderful and achievable for someone who has put in the amount of time and effort that she has. You get out what you put in. And THAT is the message that we all should get. We should not be beating her down because she DOES what other seem to want to do but don't have the time or energy. She finds the time. She finds the energy. I found her page after following the story of another woman on this site (another yoga instructor) who has 6 kids and who just went through a battle with breast cancer and who is now cancer free and leaner, trimmer and stronger than ever before. For us to sit back and make excuses is one thing; but for us to sit back and make excuses while we beat down others around us who DON'T make excuses – well that's just inexcusable.

      • Ann says:

        The average American woman is overweight. I can see an example of that anytime I leave the house and go into the public. If the above poster can't find an example of an overweight or obese woman, then she certainly isn't looking hard enough. However, some of us prefer to be at a normal and healthy weight, even with obligations such as work and children.

    • GCNYC says:

      Why actually a plus body. This is a woman who is a yogi, she obviously isn't a plus body. She is who she is and bearing that shows her openess and that people who in the minds of other's are perfect, still have their own insecurities, their own ideals for perfection,and their own imperfection. I find it surprising that women as strong and beautiful still look and feel normal women's bodies. It helps the rest of us to realize that we must work out to be fit, and even then, we are all human woman and must appreciate that. The most helpful body image moment for me was going to a clothing free sauna with many pools and saunas. Women of all ages, sizes, breast sizes, body tones, hair habits, all walked around and it was beautiful. They were all women and I could see why a man, no matter how unattractive I may feel or imperfectly hair free or jiggly still finds me beautiful naked. Our bodies, no matter what size, are still gorgeous and attractive, and those imperfect parts make us women and make it all that more raw and attractive. Close to the subject, this is why there are new lines of "vintage" style erotic photography for women by women, because in fact, men are asking to see women with all their real lines and mass media, Maxim, and erotic art or pornography industry has created two categories of women-the perfect woman or the plus size, and that is so far from reality missing all of the in between. Even plus size women come in so many shapes and different cultures find different body types more appealing or womanly that skinny doesn't ensure attractiveness for everyone on this planet. Liz is a woman, a strong woman who practices yoga, a professional, but a real woman. Thank you Jennifer for giving me the opportunity to maybe give you something to think about. Thank you Liz for your strength and courage.

  20. Lisa LaPaso says:


  21. Dale says:

    Three things – First, you are beautiful, and your jiggly bits are cute. That might not make sense, but that's how I see it (literally :-).

    Next, the whole culture of women competing in beauty is of this world, and I an thrilled to see you helping other women get over it :-). You rock!!!

    The other thing is that these are yoga pics, and for me & other folks who understand the practice, the beauty isn't related to sex appeal. To me, yoga beauty is seeing the healthy expression of the pose by the yogi – her freedom to express herself to the extent allowed by her physical/mental/emotional state.

    Sri Iyengar is no beauty king – no rippling pecs or wiry thin frame – but nobody is more yoga beautiful :-).

  22. julian walker says:

    just f@#king awesome!!! kudos robert and liz.

  23. Goddess! Thank you.

  24. Shan~ says:

    So beautiful and inspirational Liz ~ I am taking your words deep into my heart and to my yoga students… Thank you for being your gorgeous inside and out ORGANIC self! Namaste'

  25. Sarit says:

    Fantastic. The perceived image of perfection is always nice to see lifted. Thank you to LIz Arch for being willing to be "naked and vulnerable" and thank you to Robert Sturman for the beautiful imagery as always. The world of photography can be so cunning and to so boldly stand up and tell the truth in a world that thrives on lies is powerful and beautiful. Deep bows.

  26. Renee Marie says:

    Beautiful. The message, the photos, and the woman. Inside and out. As an actress, model, and yogi living in South Florida, I am always striving for balance and realness in my life – whether I am on a set or on my mat. I agree wholeheartedly with Amanda's earlier post, "Thank you for the reminder that a real, healthy, strong body is infinitely more inspiring." ~ Namaste

  27. Karlena says:

    BEYOND GORGEOUS!!!!! Rock on yogi queen xoxoxoxo

  28. Kim says:

    LOVE! Oh my goodness, what a beautiful gesture. Thank you, from All Women! And, btw, S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G!

  29. adventurousandrea says:

    You are an inspirational goddess!

  30. lakia says:

    Beyond stunning!

  31. Robin says:

    Graceful, beautiful picture. The model and the backdrop are STUNNING!

  32. Tracy says:

    Gorgeous and brilliant!

  33. Beautiful images! I honestly looked at these and saw only beauty and perfection… I had to go back and try to pick out anything that someone might view as an imperfection. It's a shame how we as a society expect women to look like a photo-shopped image, instead of appreciating our natural beauty. Namaste!

  34. inspired_soul says:

    PHENOMENAL !! So Goddess-like. 😀 Where did you get your attire? I'd love to do a shoot like this!

  35. Watty says:

    Beautiful job. (and subject.) No editing was needing, you did an amazing job.

  36. JGeddes says:

    In only one picture do I see cellulite. They are all of a beautiful woman and I think this article,while meaningful, is disingenuous. A stunning woman of obviously great talent ( and flexibility!) hardly speaks for the rest of us. It's easy to put un-photoshopped photos out there when you know you are beautiful without the assistance of technology.

    • zyogini says:

      She's not trying to speak for "the rest of us". She could never do that. She's her. She's trying to be honest about who she is in her poses. If you posted photos of yourself taken by a professional photographer, that portrayed yourself and your poses in an honest way, you would also get a barrage of comments about how beautiful you are. It is the honesty that is the beauty of the photos, not the body, or how far you can bend your leg. Try it 🙂

  37. karri says:

    Just two very powerful words for some very powerful images… THANK YOU!

  38. hennalounge says:

    Gorgeous shoot, and gorgeous woman. I would have liked to have seen this done without the full face of makeup though (aka physical photoshop).

    • Robert says:

      Liz wears minimal make-up. She is from an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and can put chapstick on and she looks made-up. Between the golden light that I chose to shoot in and her complexion, I can understand why some viewers would assume that.

  39. tree peters says:

    just beyond beautiful. These images inspire me and have my body aching to join in movement and flexibility and strength. Thank you for sharing.

  40. Ana says:

    Really sublime..Strong, poised, feminine…as all women should feel..A very honest article..Thank you for doing that…

  41. holli says:

    From the bottom of my heart, thank you. This article is a gift and I find your willingness to be this vulnerable very courageous.
    The images were so stunning they brought tears to my eyes.
    I can't wait to show this to my 13 yr. old daughter.

  42. sass says:

    I find this really inspirational. You are beautiful in multiple ways. Could self acceptance be the new measure of beauty?

  43. Angela Grace says:

    Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Thanks for the vulnerability.

  44. mysmartha says:

    What a beautiful expression of yoga. Ahimsa is compassion for all living things. Satya is a commitment to truth. Your words and photos demonstrate these aspects of yoga as much as they demonstrate asanas. Thank you, teacher. Namaste and blessings!

  45. Lauren Tober says:

    Gorgeous woman, gorgeous photographs, gorgeous words. Thanks for sharing this Liz x

  46. Moreta says:

    I am encouraged by your words to stop being so self-critical and find your images stunning. Robert has captured the essence of woman: strong yet softly feminine. No wonder men are mystified and enthralled by our bodies (imperfections and all). I want to push my yoga practice further to emulate the strength, balance and fluidity of your poses. I have spent much of my life scrutinizing my perceived physical flaws versus embracing them, wanting to have legs as smooth and taught as they look like the photoshopped images in magazines. I, like most women, have trouble taking compliments without making a silent (and sometimes not so silent) disclaimer, as if having cellulite negated the positive. Seeing some of the comments above, it appears not only are we our own worst critics but we disparage, judge, scrutinize other women on both conscious and subconscious levels. It has to stop; we need to be more kind to both ourselves and other women if we wish to raise healthy and secure future women. Thank you for inspiring me this morning!

  47. indiafairellen says:

    Very beautiful and wonderful what you have done here, kudos. As a plus size, but still incredibly strong gal, I was shocked to discover at a destination wedding in my 20's that all the little waif gals whose bodies I envied and all wore bikini's had cellulite. Every last one of them, while I had none and was strong like an Amazon. That was the moment when I started getting proud of my frame and ok with my size 12/14.
    One comment, and I do not mean this as a negative criticism , more as an observation. It does sort of seem to me that a yoga instructor, as someone who has made this your life's work, can what you achieve be a "normal" healthy body? This as actually a question I guess. By normal, I make the assumption that this is something achievable by everyone, and that it could be the "norm". As a person who does this for your work and has specific training, I can only assume that you dedicate a lot more time to it and as such have different results then I would as a student who would have time for perhaps two classes a week.
    Could you possibly comment on this?

    Thanks so much, and this is a great project. Much appreciated.
    India Fairellen

  48. Jess says:

    Looooove this!!! So beautiful and strong.

  49. jbyoga says:

    Thank you for sharing this. You are beautiful as is your message. These photos show true beauty and light and make me feel better about my own body and its curves and ripples and indentations and all. MORE LIKE THIS!!!!

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