What Is Attractive?

TOTEMS, 1995, 24″-27″, ceramic
An extremely accomplished photographer friend asked me to be her subject and the shoot took place this week.

I so looked forward to this because I respect her as a person and as a talent and was eager to see the ‘me’ she saw through her lens.

She is not about ‘pretty’ as an end in itself. I would say that one of her great talents rests in the ability to capture the real and unpretentious in her subjects and allow the viewer to feel the beauty there; ‘beauty’ meaning the essence of Life with a capital ‘L.’

When she arrived at the house I saw the look in her eye- the laser focus of a creative being searching for her food; some light or composition or thread which moved her to take action.

Interestingly, to me, I just easily let her have a conversation with me as her inner gears were turning while deciding what tack to take for the photo shoot. I had no nervousness about it at all. I trusted her, the experience and nothing about me was working to make sure it was ‘perfect.’ I surrendered because I was too tired to do otherwise and because I hold her in such high regard.

The process of being photographed was so blessedly free of inhibition. She didn’t want smiles and I had few to give.

I sat and looked at the lens wondering what she was seeing, yes, but more resting in the unusual relaxed and state of being I was experiencing and marveling at the absence of anxiety.

When I viewed the photos yesterday there was so much to feel: I hated my hair, I loved my face, the gorgeous light and simplicity of composition. Even though I felt so deeply relaxed in her presence I saw the fear and worry I carry as a consequence of my health concerns. This didn’t look pretty to me at all. Any kind of veneer was decidedly absent.

I have an idea, a story about how I appear to people which is free of straining and struggle. When I look in the mirror it is that Cathy I
see. I see that one because I HAVE to. I am a beauty junkie and the image of myself I have conjured in my mind helps me heal, frankly.

My friend did what she does best- she reveals an essence of someone without the masks we all use to appear in a way that we deem attractive.

I woke up this morning not caring very much about my bad hair in the shoot. What I do care about is that I had an experience of having my photograph taken without anxiety.. that I have a friend with whom I can relax even in such an anxiety-provoking situation, that I have an opportunity to really ‘see’ my self in the beauty of my own present moment through her amazing photographs of me.

My beloved dog was at my side throughout; spread languidly over my knee brace and licking my ‘less-than-fully-functional hand.

Is this not beauty?


One Response to “What Is Attractive?”

  1. Muff on July 30th, 2012

    It isn’t until I see myself in a photograph that I realize how much this disease has robbed from me. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see those changes. Perception — is it everything?

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