What makes a good portrait?
I really love this one, part of a series of self portraits I took when I was beginning a Self-as-canvas project, adding variously coloured streaks to my hair to represent the ages of womanhood. It’s a pretty genuine, honest, authentic capture of me, I feel. I have a strong gaze and comfortable pose. The side lighting adds colour, drama, sculpting – it makes me look thinner than I am. It is edited, selected from others that were less flattering, I increased the contrast and saturation very slightly to emphasize the sculpting. I believe I smoothed my skin ever-so-slightly. Still, you can see the fat in my arms, the slightly dimpled uneven skin, some wrinkles on my chest and neck, my dark under eyes…
I could go on….why am I bothering to tell you all this? Well, because this is what we all do, we scrutinize our images, looking for faults, never good enough. And now, as never before, we can ‘improve’ them, smooth away our flaws. Messenger does it for us. Apps abound to edit away all that is unwanted. And, where my friends does that leave us?
If we struggle so much now with self acceptance, body love, aging, how will our children manage in the age of the Plastic Portrait?
As a photographer, I work with many women, and I have yet to meet one who dosn’t struggle with how she looks. I see the same with men, but the rhetoric is different. I am focusing here on my own experiences, and images captured as an extended self portrait process to explore this and hopefully reveal something both about myself, but also about all women, and even society and what the culture of the plastic portrait is ushering in. My greatest desire, though, of course is to inspire change, to embolden women to take back their art, radicalize the selfie, create portrayals of beauty that go far beyond the merely slim, fit, youthful, firm, happy. Now that each of us has the tools in our hands, will we wield them? How will we choose to use our smart phones and cameras and editing apps and software? What imagery will we broadcast to the world about women, beauty, youth, aging, diversity, inclusion, consumerism?
Compare the following three images! They are all me, one taken by a loving partner with a pro Nikon, the other two selfies taken with an ipad. My expressions in each are loving, sweet, feminine, even sexy. I know that I am adored, that I am attractive, either by another, or by myself. The first two are a couple of years earlier, and perhaps I look younger.
For all of you that are really loving the first of the three! Really? Shame on you!
It’s been edited out of reality. Every blemish, mole, wrinkle, imperfection on my face has been removed, smoothed out. My skin has never looked like this, not even when I was 5! I don’t pluck my eyebrows and there are errant hairs there, as well as on my chin. ;) The colour and brightness of my eyes has been enhanced a lot, as well as my lip colour. I don’t know how to alter the shape of my jaw, otherwise I would have made it less rounded and ‘chubby’! Oh, did I mention I added the auburn streaks into my hair in post?
The second two images were both taken on ferry trips back home after glorious Summer adventures. I am happy, sun baked. In the first, I was clearly feeling sexy and wanting to share that, longing to reconnect with my lover at home, no doubt! The setting sun fills in all my wrinkles, and gives me a glorious glow, accentuating my cleavage with my honey drop pendant! I am sure I pumped the saturation a little and warmed up the image to bring out that gold and auburn.
The last image is by far my favourite. It’s me, it’s really me. I mean the other two are as well. But this one is just me looking at me without much attempt to add or take away. I remember exactly how I felt and what I wanted to capture of that moment and myself in it – I felt loving towards myself, grateful for my life, deeply proud and honoring of that stage of my journey. I think it shows. I think the image is faded slightly, and there is a vignette on it. But it shows my skin, my eyes as they are.
I am a 48-50 year-old woman! Am I attractive? Are you attracted to me? Are you curious abut my story? My motivations? My gifts?
Which image is more alluring to you?
And then there’s happiness!
We can’t possibly show the world we are sad, lost, unfulfilled, angry, broken.
I love these two! One shows me blurred, arguing, which frankly is the way a lot of people see me. The other is a selfie on a bad day, I’m frowning. I shared this one on social media, and got critiques from my friends – who wants to see this, this is not who you are, how you usually are Belinda! We only want yoru cheerful, dynamic, or sexy side. Both images are edited for different effects, one black and white to emphasize the blur, the other made more green to bring out the gloom.
So, really what does all this say? I’m not sure. I haven’t included an image yet that I simply don’t like of myself, where I look kind of fat, or super asymmetrical, or cross-eyed like most of the images from my childhood.
Here’s one that is me happy, natural, laughing – but, I don’t like it! Why? I look too old, too fat….I smoothed out the wrinkles just a tad here, can you tell?
Join me in creating, capturing and spreading a more diverse imagery of beauty, or women, and of men. Join me using the tools of technology, or iPhones, apps and editing to create a radical art of beauty, not just a false art of erasure, of plastic portraits.
How can we show age, show process, show ourselves as works of art that aren’t only a harking back to a bye-gone barbie wanna be?
These three reflecting on grey! The first is a self-portrait session from the second phase of my self-as-canvas project, I added the grey streaks to the blond streaks, the crone to the innocent. I donned some ceremonial dress! The second image is perhaps the most intense edit I have ever done on a portrait, emphasizing the markings of my skin as much as possible, like an etching, and ode to experience, my gaze intense, my mouth dead serious! The last, again, an iPad selfie on a day when I just needed to love myself, my greys, my wrinkles, my rough skin, the light in my eyes, and just really really soften into myself, my journey and my self love!
So, there it is, a little more about me, what drives me, what inspires me!
Come join me on Facebook at Apple Star Photo, check out my About Me page. Contact me to tell me what you think, or to do a portrait session together, or to talk about beauty and aging in the era of the Plastic Portrait!
Gratitude to the many who inspired me,
~ my mother for always being radically bold and beautiful!
~Bonnie for her ground breaking site taht I saw first as a new mother before I had even heard of body positivity at http://theshapeofamother.com/who-i-am/
~Jess Baker, renowned writer, blogger and tireless advocate for body positivity at http://www.themilitantbaker.com/
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