Unpictured and Unseen

I don’t know what beauty is anymore. I’ve lost the old parameters. I know it when I see it but I also know that beauty is not seen. Beauty is a feeling. Maybe, beauty is love. When I look at a person in a photograph and feel that they are beautiful, what am I experiencing? And why the photograph at all?

I don’t know what beauty is anymore yet I know that everyone is beautiful. I read this today in a book:

“Reality is ultimately known without a form, unpictured and unseen.”

Reality. That’s something else I no longer understand. But sometimes I feel it, like beauty.

Photography, for me, is a treasure hunt on a map filled with X’s. It is an art form that is an extension of my desire to connect. I don’t speak for photographers. I’m not as smart as Susan Sontag or Roland Barthes. I gravitate toward mediums that further my understanding of this mystery of ours.

Today, and most every day, I’m thinking about beauty and how that seems to be a quality of perception, of the eye. We all agree on sunsets and mountaintops, but faces, people, are another type of landscape.

I would call myself a landscape photographer though I’m more interested in humans than sweeping vistas. I’m interested in sweeping human vistas. Why is it so much easier for the land to speak to us? I think it’s because we allow it to be what it is. We stare out at our practical geographies and understand weather, and ancient forces, and the slow work of time. We don’t judge the Earth. It’s filled with beauty, and most of it we can’t explain.

You are beautiful because I have allowed myself to see you with my heart. Translation: You are beautiful because I have chosen to just love you, like an oak tree on a hillside or the majesty of the sea. Beauty, then, is not a judgment of visual perception. Beauty simply is. I only take pictures of beautiful people, because there are no other kinds.

I don’t know what beauty is anymore, but I know what it isn’t, and that’s a start. There is something hidden in the human face, something obscured, like the ultra-violet patterns on a flower that only bees can see. Beauty is like that. A photograph is like a filter that reveals the latent image of us all. A portrait is a palimpsest that belies skin color, bone structure, it unifies rather than divides. And no matter what our intentions, it glories not the Self or the concept of a Self. Every portrait is a group photo. We always see ourselves in each other.

o O o


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