On ugliness

A few days ago I was speaking with my photographer friend. The subject was copyright law.

Somewhere in the conversation she said something that was a bit of a eureka moment for me. OK, it was more like a duh moment followed by a forehead slap, as she did not say anything that’s particularly enigmatic or mysterious.

Still she made me ponder and I love that. I love it when people make me ponder…

She said that some photographers, herself included, when taking a photograph of a person, approach it with the intention of making the subject look beautiful. This was no news to me, I knew that. I try to do that too.

Then she told me that there are photographers who purposefully try to make their subject look ugly.

I was a bit surprised at why someone would want to take an ugly photograph. I know, call me naive. It just never occurred to me that someone would want to do that. I mean, I have taken terrible photos of people… and of my thumb… but none of those were intentional.

When asked why some photographers would purposefully want to make someone look ugly, she told me that they themselves see life as dark and ugly and they want to showcase that through their work.

To get the desired effect they approach the subject at an unflattering angle, harsh lighting and so on. She said photographers have many techniques to make the same person look beautiful or ugly – it all depends on the photographer and on how she sees life.

Hmm, I thought. If a photographer can make a choice whether she highlights my beauty or ugliness, then I can make the same choice about myself.

I can go stand in a public bathroom under harsh overhead lighting and study the huge dark circles under my eyes. I can stare in my lighted 10x magnification mirror and marvel at the size of my pores. I can take out my jewelry microscope and study the dirt under my fingernails and then google every conceivable disease that gets spread through contact.

Or I can choose soft, warm lighting, find my favorite thing about myself and focus on it. I can explore what it is that I love about myself and find a way to nurture and grow it.

I can choose how I look at the inner me too. I can psychoanalyze every dark aspect of my personality. If I cannot find something dark enough, I can imagine it and then berate myself for failing to see the terrible truth about myself.

Or I can look at my internal truth honestly and without judgement, heal what I dislike and cultivate what I do like.

I can apply the same principles to other people was well. I can go into a store assuming that all cashiers are rude and through my interaction with a cashier I can trigger something in her to support my belief. Or I can base my actions from the space of love and kindness and perhaps receive kindness in return.

What my friend made me think about is that how easy it is to take an ugly or a beautiful “photograph” of myself or of another person.

For now, let’s leave the “other person” alone, we will get back to him or her at another time.  Today I want to talk about how we look at ourselves.

I believe that if we choose to see ourselves as ugly beings, then that is what we will see. We will purposefully look for the harsh lighting, unflattering angles and examine our dirt under a microscope.

If we choose to see ourselves as fundamentally beautiful beings, then we will observe ourselves under gentler lighting, at many angles and through a variety of lenses. We may still see that dirt, but it will not be all that we see and it may not be as scary.

I leave you to ponder the following:

How do you photograph your own inner and outer truth? What type of lighting do you choose? What angles do you use?

How much of your time do you spend shining your beauty and how much of your time do you spend hiding your flaws?

Do you smile or frown when you press that button on your camera?

Much love,

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