I often think about what it is that drives society to be so obsessed with youthfulness. Now more than ever we are obsessed with perfection. Perfect models are photoshopped to be even more perfect and it’s almost freakishly rare that any women over the age of 45 should appear beautiful without some kind of plastic surgery. There is an unbalanced ratio of male to female older actors getting the lead roles. George Clooney can appear on the cover of a magazine sporting his ‘distinguished’ wrinkles, whilst his female counterparts are photographed in more forgiving light and usually quite obviously been given the once over with the “must make her look youthful” photoshop tool.
As a photographer, I definitely see the importance in ‘cleaning up’ an image. Digital photos these days are high definition and are viewed on high definition devices so flaws can be distracting to the overall image. Yet, it always seems refreshing when I come across a series by a photographer, who has chosen to find beauty in the flaws, to celebrate the things that would otherwise be corrected during the editing process. This week I came across two series of photographs that gave me the impetus to write this post.
Stephanie Diani’s ‘DAMES‘ series addresses the issues society has with female aging. Mainstream media sends a message that aging should be hidden, avoided, and something to be ashamed of flaunting. We are constantly reminded of the fragility of beauty.
She captures, renowned older burlesque performers dressed in their favourite stage costumes, posing in their own homes. These women are between the ages of 50 and 70 years old and it completely turns any preconceived ideas you had about burlesque and indeed beauty on it’s head. I’m truly inspired by this series and the women themselves. It’s gutsy, fun, empowering and sends a message to the world and women in particular that age is not something to fear, rather it is something we should hold in high regard and celebrate with passion! Here are a few of my favourites:
You can check out the entire series via her website
Initially I was simply going to write about Diani’s series, because for me this is already an amazing enough set of photographs to share and discuss, but last night I came across another series of photographs, also of women and also confronting…OK these are very confronting, but I knew I needed to include them in this post, because they are so important.
Now obviously violence towards women is a far more serious issue here, but I wanted to make the point that beauty is such a complex topic. The ways in which it is twisted, controlled, portrayed and in extreme cases taken prisoner, is something we need to change worldwide.
Emilio Morenatti’s DOMESTIC VIOLENCE series exposes and aims to bring awareness to the horrific trauma and violence inflicted in women who are victims of acid attacks and indeed any violence against women. His series is arresting to say the least. He not only shows to the world their faces, but pairs it with their story and by doing so it makes this issue much more difficult to ignore. The perpetrators of acid attacks are generally committing such atrocities, because of ownership disputes. They perceive the victim as something they can’t have or someone who can’t be controlled by them. Many times it’s part and parcel of arranged marriage. Of course, all this is pure insanity, but the grave reality is that these men target the victims’ faces and in doing so, in their minds at least, guarantee that no one will ever want their victim. The ramifications of these attacks send waves of trauma and dysfunction throughout not only the immediate family, but the villages, town and cities where these women
live exist. I hope that photographs like this help to raise much need awareness to such horrific crimes and in doing so, give women in countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, the safety, respect choices and opportunities in life that they deserve.
Shahnaz Bibi, 35, poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan
Saira Liaqat, 26, poses for the camera as she holds a portrait of herself before being burnt, at her home in Lahore, Pakistan.
View the entire series by Emilio Morenatti.
Although these two artists have touched on different issues. They have both successfully used photography to expose something that would have otherwise remained relatively hidden. I’m gratefully for having seen both series and it shows the tremendous power of art in changing the world.