Today was one of these ordinary days, which started with no plan or agenda, and as I watched it unfold all little details came together as pieces of a puzzle, to almost make me jump out of the bath tub half an hour ago screaming “Eureka!” (not the city, but Archimedes’ exclamation.)
It was a particular video I watched and a message from a friend that got the wheels of my brain spinning, rushed me out of the bath tub, and I found myself in front of the computer writing this blog post with the help of about 20 Safari tabs open. The video, entitled “This Will Forever Change The Way You Look At Selfies,” shows the results of a photography workshop for mothers and daughters, who are encouraged to take self portraits together, the goal being to redefine beauty. The trick: in the photos they have to incorporate the features they don’t like about themselves, instead of what they are comfortable with. See the powerful results of the workshop and the video here. Watch the entire thing – it is BEAUTIFUL!!
“I think beauty is being strong, and being brave, and being happy with yourself. I think that’s being beautiful.”
I am not going to lie. The video made me cry. And then I knew what I had to do. Write what I am about to.
This morning, I went for a walk. While I was taking a picture of the scenery with my phone (the light was beautiful), a lady walked by and said “You should take a selfie, too – you look so cute!” I smiled and thanked her, taken aback: I had no make-up on and I had just gotten out of bed. That was so sweet of her to say, I thought, and then decided to snap some pictures of myself anyway. After looking at them, I deleted every single image (I looked pretty terrible!), but one. This one:
I didn’t feel like putting on make up for the rest of the day, and we ended up going to a gallery to drop off some pictures for a photography contest. Right next door was a lingerie boutique I’ve been wanting to visit for a while, with my boudoir photo shoots in mind. I had kind of met the owner, Naomi, very briefly at a bridal show, while I was standing on a platform modeling a gorgeous Great Gatsby inspired wedding gown, all dolled up with professional hair and make up. Imagine my surprise, when the first thing Naomi said to me was that my face looked very very familiar. I reminded her she had met me at the bridal show, feeling somewhat naked and ugly since this time I had zero make up on. However, she saw the same person as when I had my hair and make up professionally done and looked like this:
I was never a girl to wear much make up. I started wearing mascara and eye liner in high school. Many a time I wouldn’t bother putting make up on at all. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago (I am 30 now), that I introduced eye shadow and light foundation. Lipstick appeared in my make-up bag very recently, red lipstick by that, acquired solely for photo shoots, worn in public once or twice (I have a paranoia that it will end up on my teeth, as it usually does, so I hardly ever put it on). However, this is not the case with everyone. Many teenage girls feel the pressure to look “pretty” and start wearing make up early to fit in. Sometimes, so much make up that if you see them without “their face on” you can hardly recognize them.
A month or so ago, a friend of mine (male, my age) came by the house around noon and when he saw me he told me I looked different. I was wearing my yoga pants and a hoodie, and since I had no intention of going out that day I didn’t have any make up on. “You look beautiful,” he said. I looked at him as if he had fallen from Mars. “What are you taking about? Have you gone blind?,” I replied. “I know what it is,” he continued, “You have no make up on today. I like that. You are beautiful.” I still had a look of disbelief on my face, but his words made me feel good in a strange way, because he meant what he said.
“I can be beautiful without make up on” was a new idea. When I was younger, maybe yes. I didn’t wear any make up then, but after turning 25 I felt that I had to at least put mascara on to go out. Society places images in our heads of what is beautiful and what’s not, and dark circles, big pores and a crooked bottom tooth (yes, I have one of these) are not classified as attractive. But, they are part of me. Does this mean I am not beautiful?
Let me break it to you.
The fake images we are bombarded with in the beauty magazines, music videos and Hollywood movies ARE NOT REAL.
Lately, there have been many videos showing how Photoshop can make us skinny and stunning in less than 37 seconds, How Fake Celebrities’ Looks are achieved in music videos, or inspirational photo projects that expose people and their insecurities. Do yourself a favor and click on all the links above, the videos are worth watching!
“...do not read beauty magazines they will only make you feel ugly…” Baz Lurhmann
It is not a secret that editing software can completely transform an average looking person into a glamorous model, yet we torture ourselves looking at celebrities’ photos and trying our best to be as skinny/beautiful/tall/tanned/perfect as they are. Truth is, they are not perfect. They have break outs, dark circles and bad hair days, just like we do. Nobody is perfect. And we don’t have to be. We don’t have to compare ourselves to the fake images of perfection TV commercials and magazine ads are trying to sell us. No beauty product/plastic surgery can make you feel good about yourself. If they do, it is just a temporary illusion. Only YOU can make yourself feel beautiful. By accepting all your imperfections as part of your unique personality and loving them as the pieces that comprise the unique human being that you are.
However, quickly after that, encouraged by all the nice comments on my newly acquired friends on the site from all over the world, I decided to be brave and took not just one, but many pictures of myself, face and all:
Project 365 taught me not only to notice the beauty around, but also within me. The self portraits became a way to challenge myself, try something new, face a fear, express a feeling/mood that I had no other means to share/make sense of.
“Selfie,” named word of the wear for 2013, has gained negative connotation as “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”A phenomenon abused by attention-thirsty teenagers desperately seeking approval and being devastated if they don’t get the desired number of “likes.” Selfies are even considered harmful by some studies.
However, for me, taking pictures of myself has a completely different meaning and value. As one of my 365 friends put it,
“there really is something about self portraits that encourages you to show your emotions. the isolation and loneliness of being both the subject and the photographer allow you to be who you are and show unrestrainably how your feeling”
Over the last four years, I have been inspired by the self portraits of some of my talented 365 photographer friends as well as other amazing photographers I keep discovering online. I have built quite the collection of selfies myself, and what surprises me is that more often than not my friends tell me that my self portraits are what they love the most from my work. I even ended up writing a blog post on how to take self portraits (no, my arms are not that long ;-)) which enjoyed tremendous popularity.
We do not like being vulnerable and exposed, but that’s the only way to embrace who we are, accept our imperfections, and see that we are truly beautiful. Women feeling insecure about themselves and doubting their looks was the reason that pushed me into boudoir photography. Most people see us as beautiful human beings and love us the way we are, but it’s the hardest thing for us to do so. We are our worst critics, staring in the mirror with a list of things we would like to change about ourselves if we could.
“Your body is beautiful. Really, it is. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re plump or slender, reedy or Rubenesque; your whole self — top to toe — deserves its day in the spotlight. Women put in huge amounts of effort each day just to meet society’s standard of beauty, only to get bogged down by stress and insecurity over failing to fit within that narrowly-defined (and often unhealthy) ideal. Stripping down and showing it off is a celebratory, powerful, even subversive act — and it’s exhilarating. And when you see those photos in the days, months and years that follow, it’ll be with a lasting appreciation for your body as the glorious, gorgeous machine it is.”
You are beautiful, just the way you are. Leave the house without make up for a day. Look in the mirror after shower and smile. Resist editing a photo before posting it on Facebook. Stop hiding from the camera. Love yourself. Love your freckles.
“The children came to a perfume shop. In the show window was a large jar of freckle salve, and beside the jar was a sign, which read: DO YOU SUFFER FROM FRECKLES?
What does the sign say?” ask Pippi. She couldn’t read very well because she didn’t want to go to school as other children did.
It says, ‘Do you suffer from freckles?’” said Annika.
Does it indeed?” said Pippi thoughtfully. “Well, a civil question deserves a civil answer. Let’s go in.”
She opened the door and entered the shop, closely followed by Tommy and Annika. An elderly lady stood back of the counter. Pippi went right up to her. “No!” she said decidedly.
What is it you want?” asked the lady.
No,” said Pippi once more.
I don’t understand what you mean,” said the lady.
No, I don’t suffer from freckles,” said Pippi.
Then the lady understood, but she took one look at Pippi and burst out, “But, my dear child, your whole face is covered with freckles!”
I know it,” said Pippi, “but I don’t suffer from them. I love them. Good morning.”
She turned to leave, but when she got to the door she looked back and cried, “But if you should happen to get in any salve that gives people more freckles, then you can send me seven or eight jars.”
― Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking
Are you ready for a selfie? No looking in the mirror first 😉
I will be happy to read/hear/know what you think about the topic. Feel free to post your comments below!