Richard Tallent’s occasional blog

Every Body is Beautiful (#ebib)

Every Body is Beautiful.

  • Including bodies of genders or types you aren’t attracted to sexually.
  • Including bodies of old people.
  • Including bodies battling disease.
  • Including bodies formed by unhealthy lifestyles.
  • Including bodies with excess muscle tissue.
  • Including bodies with excess adipose tissue.
  • Including bodies with user modifications.
  • Including bodies with a different skin color. Or multiple colors. Or none.
  • Including bodies with gender expressions you don’t understand.
  • Including bodies with scars.
  • Including bodies with disabilities.
  • Including bodies with lots of hair.
  • Including bodies with no hair at all.
  • Including bodies with stretch marks.
  • Including bodies of people you disagree with.

When an artist talks about the human body being “beautiful,” we aren’t talking about sexual attraction. We aren’t enabling poor choices. We aren’t “being PC.” We aren’t patronizing people. We aren’t dismissing the work of people in peak athletic form. We aren’t even talking about traditional aesthetics. We aren’t dismissing the validity of people having preferences in who they are attracted to romantically.

Rather, when an artist talks about the beauty of the human form, we’re talking about how our bodies collectively express both the full diversity of the human experience, and the tremendous degree to which that experience is shared. We’re talking about how the human body is an amazing tool for molding light, and yet it is not objectified by being lit as an object. We’re talking about how we want people seeing our work to actively look past their prejudices, taboos, sexual preferences, and visceral social judgments and actually see the work as a whole.

When I work with a model, my goal isn’t to make them look sexually appealing, or even traditionally attractive. The goal is simply to create beautiful art, which doesn’t necessarily mean maximizing the attractiveness of the model.

Now, most of the time, the best choice for the art also happens to show the model in the best light, and I tend do make creative choices in that direction. But it’s not a given. I’m not shooting glamour or boudoir (unless you’re paying me), I’m trying to create something with some personal meaning. And sometimes, a particular concept works best with an “unflattering” pose, or one that highlights something the model is self-conscious about.

Fortunately, the vast majority of models I’ve worked with understand this, and I’ve successfully screened those who were more interested in validating their vanity than creating art. But on the audience side, I can still see how some people are more interested in judging the model than judging the art. Those are the people I hope can learn this, because they really are missing the point.


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