I’m retouching someone else’s work. First time ever happened to me. I would decline in any other situation, but this is something I want to do – it’s help to my ballet school, and they insist they don’t want to re-shoot.
It’s a portrait of a young ballerina. I saw this girl multiple times: talking to a friend, dancing on a stage, practicing in class. She is a young teenager.
The portrait does not do her any justice. It’s very poorly lit, awkward slouching pose, guarded expression, and unflattering angle. I’m sure the photographer did the best he could do at the time. Just yesterday I felt like a giant failure shooting in a new environment and not getting results I wanted. New lighting scenario with certain limitations can do that 😉
So I’m retouching and noticing thinking “crap, crap, crap, this is no good”. Besides the tech things and light pattern on the face, the angle is wrong for her. And this is something that can not be adjusted in any way in editing.
And I can not help but keep thinking that it just needs to be re-done. Because it’s her professional portrait, and is destined to be part of her vehicle to the next ballet school. And that she is in fact – teenager – and do you remember how impressionable we are at that age? Hell, I still cringe at bad photo of myself, but it does not become part of my psychological make-up, unlike at the much younger age.
Because when we grow up, and especially at the time of the major search for “who am I?”, that happens during teenage years, all little puzzle pieces that we encounter create the big picture that will, in fact, define course of our lives. And for girls in particular – will tip the scale to the “I’m beautiful” or “I’m not beautiful” verdict.
And this verdict, so not taking roots in reality by the transient definition of “beautiful”, has such a toll. If you’re a woman, I’m sure you’ll get it. The actual mindset of “I’m beautiful” or “I”m not” dictates so much, that it’s not even worth writing examples. (I wrote 2 paragraphs, then erased.)
I’m the “not” kind.
In reality, in photos – I’m pleasant to look at (see, “beautiful” is not easy to write). In my mind – unless I have make-up/special dress or I’m dancing – not. I would not know why for sure. I remember feeling like an ugly duckling growing up. What comes up now… surely only tiny piece of the whole puzzle: you see, one of the ways my usually wise Mom thought as pedagogical – was comparing. I was compared to my cousin. We were spending each summer together, and to this day I love her dearly. She was/is everything I’m not (my adult balanced self says – “and otherwise”) – tall, green eyes, wavy lighter hair, obedient to her parents. I remember knocking out half of my front tooth after thirty minutes of frantic brushing once – my mom pointed how white her teeth were. To this day I perm my hair, and only today writing this post I see the connection. Funny little things.
This is one of the allures of being glamour photographer – seeing the beauty in other women, and capturing it. And there is something magical happens when woman sees her portraits and says “I”m beautiful”. When I show the portraits first time, I can barely breathe. I’m waiting for the verdict. Because her recognition of her beauty does something to me too. I’m a hair of an inch closer allowing myself seeing the same in me.
Do you know what seeing good portraits of yourself does? Its self-discovery, it’s seeing yourself with a kind eye, it’s getting to know yourself with curiosity and smile, and wonder – is this how people who love me see me? Portraits are witnesses of our lives.
Logically and by my experience beauty is easy – it’s self-acceptance. Happiness. Being care-free. I swear, everyone is beautiful. There is a condition though. It’s when.
Typically first 10-15 minutes of the shoot goes to the trash. Not yet, not yet, there! The guarded expression goes away, tension (especially near the mouth area) melts, and here she is. Glorious. Free to the point of allowing her true self to be on the foreground. No defenses. (You know, most influential people, in my observation, freely show vulnerabilities. And it’s magical). After that moment my major problem is to choose 25 out of 200 gorgeous ones.
It’s when we are self-accepting the beauty shines through.
You see now why I’m so involved in the retouch of that portrait? Simple job stirred so much… …imagery was chosen by rather emotive value. hope you’ll understand 😉 I could not choose among beautiful images of my clients.
The bonus of reading that far – link to this video, and be prepare to feel raw after watching, but it’s so worth it… and is not it interesting that no matter what our appearance is, we all funny about our looks. Can you relate?