One ideal beauty? Think again…
I don’t believe that beauty can be measured by the width of the eyes or the shape of the nose, or for that matter be represented by any single ideal. That type of thinking might have held sway in ancient Greece, but it no longer applies in the twenty-first century, with our unprecedented awareness of – and exchanges with – peoples from distant parts of the world. We don’t live in a bubble any longer.
From mud villages to sprawling urban centers access to television, wireless telecommunications and the internet is booming. This makes for faster communication to be sure, and it brings with it the awareness that our western standards of beauty may not be at all applicable in other cultures.
Actually, I have witnessed this discrepancy up close and personal: it becomes very obvious while on location shoots in so-called “exotic” spots around the world.
Whether it’s a casbah in Morocco, a native people’s fishing village in Panama or River Number Two in Sierra Leone, when a photo team with models and cameras shows up, the locals always gather around to see what’s going on. And how awkward and somehow amusing it is when they point and giggle at our model (who of course would be the sought-after Über-glamazon of the moment) because they find her too tall, too skinny, too stuck up, too bland or angular or pale – in other words – plain out ugly, as far as they’re concerned. Ouch! That’s a reality check!
It’s on these trips that I have often noticed in the crowd a girl who is truly beautiful by any measure, whose beauty is not a matter of “model” standards.
It reminds me that a well-groomed young woman who has a slender (not scrawny) figure, radiant skin, natural thick hair, white teeth and a sparkle in her eye will be considered beautiful by most people across the globe.
My conclusion is that one measure of beauty is certainly tied to place and culture. Local folk snickering at our model are in fact simply saying – “you are not our fashion”. This can even be true from one neighborhood to the other in a big city!
On the other hand, there is the kind of beauty that transcends borders and cultures because it speaks to the human heart and spirit. We just have to open our eyes to see it, and open our minds to recognize it!
Special thanks to photographers Helga Ni, Sean Hawkey, Eric Lafforgue and rudenoon for their wonderful portraiture.