It is so pretty out right now. I love mornings like this where I get to sit and watch the day go by for a moment. From here in my old wingback chair, I can see the rich blue sky striped with wispy thin clouds. The back of the building across from me looks like a patchwork of red and tan bricks and white windows; fading in and out of intensity as the thin clouds pass between the suns rays.
Sophia Loren was once quoted as saying,
"BEAUTY IS HOW YOU FEEL INSIDE, AND IT REFLECTS IN YOUR EYES. IT IS NOT SOMETHING PHYSICAL."
I think she is right.
We are all wrong about ourselves. I think it is one of life's great jokes that we never really understand because it is so absurd and it is being played on us all the time.
We think we know ourselves. We think we know what we look like. We think we know everything there is to know about our minds, our bodies, everything that makes us who we are.
Truth is we have no idea.
We think we know what we look like. But we really don't, we know what we THINK we look like. But, there is a very good chance you could walk past an exact double of yourself on the sidewalk and not even notice. We all think we see the world for as it is. Good, Bad and in between. But we always forget the most important detail.
There is a filter between the world and ourselves. That filter is our perception.
We all see the world slightly differently based on our individual upbringing, experiences, religion, gender, sex, race, culture, socioeconomic status, heritage. On and on all the way down to the very time and place you are reading this.
Are you hungry? Because that will affect things too.
Our perception of ourselves is what I find most curious as a photographer. Everyone I have photographed has something they like and don't like about their bodies and how they look. Everyone. That is fascinating to me. You would think that surely these beautiful people would not be the slightest bit self-conscious. There is no possible way. They are so beautiful it is almost not even a compliment, it's more like an objective statement. Like a little kid pointing at your car and saying, "car", Yea buddy, that's a car.
That is why I think Sofia is right. Beauty has nothing to do with how you physically look.
Beauty is how you feel when you are at your best. Beauty is strength and courage while fighting your battles. It's grace under pressure. It's confidence. It is seductive and sits in the air without words. It is joy without want. It is the light inside of a person shining out like a beacon. It doesn't matter so much how you look but how you feel.
My job is to coax that light out of my subjects. That is why so much of what goes into building a successful photo session has little to do with the photography and so much to do with building the right mood. Because when someone is comfortable, safe and supported they are more relaxed. Relaxed people let their guard down and then you can actually see them for who they are, which makes for a better subject.
Just to prove the point. One of my favorite things is taking that bright beautiful light of a person and juxtaposing it with something "ugly" and dark. A great example of this would be the photo session I did with my friend Angela. She wanted to do an Elizabeth Bathory (if you don't know who that is google it, her story is banana's) inspired session where she would be in a bathtub covered in blood.
I love the photos from that session so much because they represent exactly what I love most about what I do. Now if you just look at the photos you might think. "Oh, that is quite jarring and scary!" But what you don't see is how much fun we were having. The whole shoot was a giggle fest. Angela and I were laughing and throwing out ideas the whole time. Nothing about what we were doing was scary, sexy or jarring. But when you look at the photos you see this gorgeous woman soaked in gore looking like a monster queen in every frame. And that is the whole point. You can create a whole world unto itself with just the right mood and communication. That enabled Angela to feel safe and confident and let her beautiful light shine through to create this wonderful piece of art that she will have forever.
That is why I think Sophia is right, real beauty isn't something physical it's emotional. Its that inner light of how a person feels about themselves in that moment shining through the windows to their soul.
However brief, I wish to capture that beauty for my subject, so that when times are tough and the road is hard they will be able to look upon the art we created together and know that yes they too are beautiful and strong and courageous and capable of doing anything they set their mind to. Because if you can put yourself out of your comfort zone and pose for a FAB session you can do anything.
The pictures prove it.