Women on the Wall
The Campaign to Honor, Liberate and Empower Women
Through the Art of Portraiture
For the past 20 years I have photographed women, not models or famous women (some were), but everyday people like you and me. During the initial years of my portrait business I recognized that women very rarely accepted their images as being who they were or wanted to be. Each and every one of my women clients would find what they did not like in their portrait and focus on it. "My nose is too big," "I don't like my double chin," "I need to lose weight," "I have too many wrinkles," etc. I was amazed to find such self-criticism when I only saw beautiful pictures of a beautiful woman. I found self-criticism more evident in women over 30, but it could show up at any age.
It was this consistent disapproval of self that prompted me to open a studio for women over thirty that was a comfortable, safe place to express themselves in any way they wanted while I captured their essence on film. What I witnessed was not expected or what I had hoped for. I found many of my clients very interested in having self-portraits made, but only when the timing was just right. What I heard was "when I lose 10 pounds," "after my plastic surgery," "when I feel better about myself," or "maybe next year." These women were very happy to spend money on photos of their family, but not on themselves. Some were concerned about what other people would think if they had a self-portrait hanging in their home. I could not believe what I was hearing!
Then I dug out my old family photos. There were many pictures of my sister and me, of my father, but where was my mother? The few pictures I had of her over the age of thirty showed her looking down and not at the camera - as if in shame. I then began to make a point of noticing whose faces were displayed in my clients' homes: always the children and ancestors, but never the matriarchs of the households!
I suspect it has to do with our culture being more focused on money and material gain than on the spiritual side of life. This focus on material things and professional achievements would lead us to believe that our powerful years are those when we make money and are young and beautiful. Magazines, Hollywood, and a patriarchal society all contribute to women not feeling good enough.
What will it take to get women on the walls of their home, leaving their essence recorded on film for history? Why is it so difficult for us to love our own self-portraits?
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