“Nice stems” is probably not a line you’ll ever hear come out of Stacey Baker’s mouth. An associate photo editor at The New York Times Magazine, Baker has come into her own spotlight recently thanks to her Instagram project, Citilegs.
Inspiration, as it often does, struck at random. In 2013, Baker was admiring the cut of a woman’s coat on the street, asked the woman if she could take a photograph, and here she is two years and nearly a thousand photos later. Now Citilegs is poised for its print debut, with a book release in the works for this fall.
Taken all together, the project is indeed a typology, a collection of things whose resemblance to each other allows the whole to hang together cohesively. But it is also through typology that differences become more salient and, in this case, celebrated.
“I know they’re just pictures of women’s legs taken against a wall, but occasionally, the deconstructed legs look like something more,” Baker said in an interview with Slate. “And I like that more often than not, it’s fuller figures that achieve that, not the model-thin legs. Models’ legs generally don’t make for interesting leg pictures. Legs with curves do and as someone who has always wanted model-thin legs, that’s good for me to see.”
Sure, most of us have two legs. But when you look at a bunch of pairs of legs together, you can’t help but marvel at what makes each pair distinct. The myriad ways women clothe and shod themselves, the many body types, even the stances people take – it is portraiture as well as a fascinating ethnography of fashion and of bodily being.
While a cursory scroll through Citilegs doesn’t reveal any differently-abled women – wheelchairs, crutches, or prosthetics, for instance – the depersonalized aspect of these images somehow does more to celebrate different female bodies and fashions than it does to objectify them. The comments on Baker’s photos are a testament to that: sometimes it’s simply “cute shoes!” or “when will we see some unshaved legs?” but where negativity arises, the majority voice is quick to respond. Citilegs has constructed around itself a community of women giving each other much more than arch support.
Love legs? Be sure to pick up the book come this Fall!