Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

I wonder how many women I know look in the mirror and truly see the beauty in the reflection before them? When they’re alone scrutinizing themselves in the glass, I wonder if the thoughts that race through their heads build themselves up, or tear them down to smithereens?

I’ve ruminated on these questions for the past two months after I’ve processed the images from my photo shoots. The common reaction I receive from my female “clients” is always one of horror.

“OHMYGOD, my stomach is bulging!”
“Yuck, my double chin!”
“My arms look sooooooo big in this picture.”
“Holy crap, I look FAT!”
“Ohhh grossssss, my hair is just nasty!”
“Whoa! I need to go on a diet.”
“Oh good, I like this one, I’m blurred.”

I’m guilty of this myself. Suffering with the sick disease of deconstructing oneself, tearing apart what we see as ugly until there is nothing left but our shattered self-esteem under our feet. The irony of it is, when I’m taking photographs of my subjects I only see their shining assets through the viewfinder. When I hear them denigrating themselves after they’ve viewed a photograph I am always shocked. It doesn’t matter how emphatically I contradict them, they’ve listened to the lies in their head for so long, they are ingrained in their belief.

No, I don’t waste my time in flattery for I find that dishonest. With every subject I photograph, there is a unique trait or characteristic that I find absolutely gorgeous and hope my image conveys that. My friends know that if they ask me a question I will not hesitate to tell them the truth. I’ve lost a few over the years because they realized I’m not the kind of friend that will tell them what they want to hear. It would be a huge disservice and I would want the same honesty shot back at me.

I remember a few years ago, I approached my unsuspecting friend, Lina, and burdened her with a question.

“Hey, so I’m going through this Character Makeover thing and I need you to tell me what you think my flaws are. So, what are 3 of my biggest flaws?”

She gave me that wide, doe-eyed stare and visibly gulped. I could tell she was biding her time, wondering how truthful she could be. I laughed so hard! But I wouldn’t have approached her if I didn’t think she’d tell me the honest truth. Conversely, she always tells me when I’m looking fly or especially sassy that day.

I believe women spend so much time cutting other women down with feral cattiness that I make a point of surrounding myself with girlfriends who encourage and enhance my life. In return, I bestow my truth in love, which took me a long time to learn. In the past, I’ve been told my direct honesty sometimes borders on tactlessness. Thankfully, I have since found the balance.

Before I begin a photo session, I now know to ask my subjects what they want me to be cognizant of while I shoot away. At a recent engagement session, I was told to watch for the double chin and bulging gut so I  acquiesced. As I process my images, I have to click my brain into critical mode so that I crop out an offending midriff, a chunky arm, or unflattering back fat.

As for me, I’ve learned to look in the mirror and stop deconstructing my reflection so that instead of resembling shards of glass floating on a pool of tears, it is a glowing countenance worthy of praise.