My feelings about a woman's body image in general are that it is more beneficial spiritually to choose a healthy lifestyle and cultivate a sense of humor, strength and serenity. When I was young that sort of thing wasn't a consideration. I probably thought I had those already. I took pride in my good looks. My spiritual/mental well-being was given little or no thought at all. How others perceived my looks was important to me. How they perceived my actions, well, I just didn't care.
The self-portrait, called Self, shows a different sort of person. I hoped to show that I'm a fairly peaceful, contented person with an sense of humor who has gained a certain amount of wisdom about life and a tolerance of the ways of others. I think this is shown by the expression of my eyes and smile and a sidelong glance.
I am trying to evoke a similar observation in the photograph Maybe It's The Way You Say. But Just Maybe. As a 55 year-old woman I also try to be open to new ideas, but not with the gullibility of my youth. I think there is a kind of ugliness in a narrow-minded attitude or the inablilty to listen. I think my eyes show honesty mixed with a healthy skepticism.
I don't think beauty ends with age, though certainly physical beauty defined by the fashion world and commercialism fades. Now that I'm among the women whose looks are quickly changing if not fading, I have thankfully realized that physical health can radiate a different kind of statement about beauty. That means the energy I have to work in the garden or walk in the wilderness can be an expression of my appreciation for natural beauty, something that resides in my soul to be reflected in my body, the way it moves and responds. In the photograph 82 we see an elderly woman who has swims competitively. The beauty of this is in the nobility of taking up the challenge of using her body in a very healthy way. It keeps her mind focused and disciplined, it's gratifying to be one of very few who does what she does at her age, and she's not ashamed of her sags and wrinkles. She's proud that she can do it. All those things are beautiful to me.
In the untitled photo of myself is of a pretty woman on a hot day and is a self-portrait that expresses not exactly my truest self, but really just an objective study of a woman suffering from the summer heat and humidity. It does radiate a certain sexiness, though. As a woman in the prime of my youth sex was a primary focus. That's not true for me now, though the need for sexual expression doesn't end. I'm not ashamed to take a photo of myself that isn't sexy, but one in which I look "good" in is fine by me, too. It's all part of the same package. I still want to "look good," it just isn't my primary concern anymore.
The three photographs using my mannequin Dangeress are interesting in terms of the concept of a woman's self-image verses how's she seen by others. Dangeress is a typically beautiful-in-the-face fashion mannequin. She has long, almond-shaped eyes with painted-on thick eye lashes. She has smooth, white, flawless skin and a very long neck. Her lips are painted red and set in a perfectly enigmatic, come-hither smile. And her face never changes. What I love about all three photos is that they show that flawed physical beauty is really more interesting than the plastic, frozen kind.
In Excuse Me, you see my own arms there in an attitude that implys that the woman burped. Maybe the burp escaped by surprise. But isn't it funny? A photo of Dangeress without my arms and the expression in this particular photo wouldn't be interesting at all. Plus, you could say that doing what comes naturally is okay, too, and doesn't detract from her physical beauty at all. Her fallibility makes her a bit flawed, therefore more interesting. And it took human-ness, my arms, to demonstrate it.
In Kenneth Cole Did It, not only is it more interesting to see her head off her shoulders lying on the floor, it could be said that it's a statement that implies that the physical beauty of youth is temporary.
But the portrait Joan, a photograph of Dangeress and my sister, shows most profoundly what I really believe and has been discussed above. Inner beauty made up of life's experiences that supply mental and spiritual health is expressed by a look in the eyes and physical well-being. It's far more interesting and even uplifting to enjoy the face of my sister than the face of Dangeress. The mannequin's face never changes, but Joan's is ever-changing because she's human and more lovable because of it.
I don't think I will ever be completely free of looking at the bodies of women and wishing mine wasn't sagging in places or that I was as thin as I was in my 20s. There's times I wonder if I'll dye my gray hairs and get a facelift if they were only cheaper. But those things take a lot of time. I hope as I get older I'll be more concerned with what I can do to make life happier for my friends and family. And do what it takes to increase my own personal mental and spiritual growth in the belief that all those things will keep me truly beautiful. And at the end of the day, if I'm lucky enough to be sitting in the proverbial rocking chair, unable to do anything but rock and drool, I'm hoping my sense of humor and everything I've ever had to give me strength and serenity will get me through.
Kirjoittaja/Writer: Jean Albus
Valokuvat/Photos: Jean Albus
Lisää Jean Albusin valokuvia löydät täältä: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkcloud/