Carmel Valley photographer Hanna Kluner is using her lens as a way to heal body image issues in young women with eating disorders. With her ED (Eating Disorder) Project, Kluner has photographed a group of young women she has worked with as a holistic health professional at the Eating Disorders Center of San Diego and helped them see themselves in a way they have never been able to before.
“When we look in a mirror we don’t really see ourselves. Self judgements override the truth,” Kluner said. “Through the process of being photographed in a very nurturing and caring way, one’s true spirit is felt and then captured as an image. One’s beauty is then reflected back, which can create new ways of seeing oneself, leading to increased confidence and a new sense of self.”
The results of Kluner’s photography sessions during the ED Project have been very rewarding to both Kluner and her subjects.
“I went into my photo session critiquing every inch of myself from head to toe, wanting to cover-up and hide,” wrote Amber, one of Kluner’s subjects. “I anticipated seeing a monster in the photographs but I soon discovered that the monster was in my mind.”
Kluner has been working as a professional photographer for 28 years and her favorite subjects are people of all ages and stages. She specializes in portraits, but has also done commercial work, food photography, model portfolios and headshots.
She said one of her best talents as a photographer is making clients feel calm and comfortable and then capturing an image that reflects back their “essence.”
In 2001, Kluner’s husband Kerry died suddenly and to help deal with her grief she started a second career as a yoga therapist. She became certified as a Phoenix Rising yoga therapy practitioner and grief recovery specialist, and opened a yoga studio in her Carmel Valley home.
As a yoga therapist, some of her clients were teenagers and young women who struggle with eating disorders at the Eating Disorders Center. Kluner had an idea that photography could be instrumental in their healing process.
“The results were marvelous, transformative and empowering,” Kluner said.
Going through the process, Kluner asked her subjects to write journals that described their feelings before, during and after the photo shoot.
Amber wrote that viewing her photographs caused a lot of giggling and “That’s me?”
“I did not anticipate seeing a lovely woman full of softness and light,” wrote Amber, who said that the experience with Kluner enriched her life.
Another one of the girls, Jordyn, wrote about how worried she was before the shoot but then said she started to relax when she realized the photo shoot could just be for her.
“It wasn’t seeing the photos that made me feel beautiful, it was this sudden feeling of freedom I got from knowing that I did this for myself and that’s okay!” Jordyn wrote. “I took a whole evening to disappear from the world and be the center of my own attention! That feeling of power, freedom and inner beauty came as a far more precious gift than any of the photos themselves whenever that monster crept in.”
Kluner is looking for a grant to be able to publish an ED Project book of the photos and journal entries. She would also like to extend her work as a way to empower breast cancer survivors, seniors and homeless teens.