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. 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!

  2. Lauren Tober says:

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

  3. 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!

  4. 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

  5. Jess says:

    Looooove this!!! So beautiful and strong.

  6. 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!!!!

  7. 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.


  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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 🙂

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. hebaothman says:

    I feel the same! And kudos.. I am in awe of mothers and their generosity of sharing their skin (literally) with their offspring – so beautiful!

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. Valeria Duque says:

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

  17. Parisa says:

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

  18. Nina says:

    Thank you. Beautiful!!

  19. karenleemacg says:

    Gorgeous photos!

  20. 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 🙂

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. aecameron says:

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

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. Rosemarie says:

    Beautiful & enlightening….thank you! .

  28. wilma says:

    wow!!!! you are a goddess!!! 😉

  29. JulesGalloway says:

    Brave and amazing!

  30. Kim P says:

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

  31. Natalie says:


  32. Marlynn West says:

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

  33. shirleymaya says:

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

  34. 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

  35. 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

  36. 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.

  37. Bianca says:

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

  38. ninjababe11 says:


  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. @TifanyLee says:

    Gorgeous without Photoshop!

  42. Debbie Lynn says:

    Refreshing truth – Beautiful images…..thank you

  43. 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.

  44. 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!!

  45. Tracy says:

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

  46. Julianne says:

    Beautiful photos, so inspiring thank you

  47. 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!

  48. Gali says:

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

  49. 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.