Tag Archives: Beauty

I Just Want To Have Fun!

In his 1991 pre-TED Talk  “talk”, John Cleese, of Monty Python fame, delivers countless “light bulb” jokes, all while detailing ways to foster creativity. The main take-away for me is that creativity is not a talent or ability. Creativity flows, Cleese believes, when you are in an open, expansive and relaxed state. And the more playful you are, the longer you can maintain this state.

To get into this “Open Mode” Cleese recommends these conditions:

Space: a secluded oasis of quiet where you are sealed off from the pressures of daily life
Time: limit the time in your space to a pre determined beginning and end
Time: allow yourself enough time to ponder before accepting your creative choice
Confidence: while you are experimenting, nothing is wrong.
Humor: humor is an essential part of spontaneity and helps get you into the Open Mode

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John Cleese also spoke of another condition that resonated with me. He recommends that your “play friends” be people you like and trust; individuals who will support and encourage you during your unedited exploration. Which brings me to Karen Lorre, actress, love goddess, and founder of Yummy Meditations. I met Karen serendipitously two years ago in a Santa Monica restaurant and immediately felt a divine connection. Several days later, an Aphrodite portrait emerged from the foamy waves of Malibu. (You can read about the making of her Goddess on Earth Aphrodite portrait here!). Karen inspires me deeply; she lives life with an abundance of joy, unconditional love and vibrant spontaneity. Her trust in me always fosters my creativity.

On a recent trip to Los Angeles, Karen and I mused about making another Goddess portrait. The result of our play time together is “Lila.” In the Hindu tradition, Lila is a way of describing our human reality and the result of spontaneous, divine play.

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On portraying Lila, Karen wrote;

When I look at the wildly innovative creativity that is in nature, I see how much this divine universe loves to play in new and fresh ways! Being playful allows me to be an open conduit for this unbounded, novel, ingenious divine, and feels fun, effortless, exciting, and full of laughter and wisdom! Being playful makes everything easy. Being playful brings out the best in me and in everyone I encounter. I love embodying the essence of Lila! I love you! ”

During the process of creating Karen’s Lila portrait, were John Cleese’s conditions present? Indeed they were. Our creative space was nestled in the magical Hollywood Hills, perched high above the din of Sunset Boulevard. The end time was pre-determined; we were going to a dinner party together AND the sun was setting! We gave ourselves extra time the next day once we had a clearer concept of the Lila image. Karen’s unconditional love and support gave me the confidence to try anything. And humor? Adorned with a tutu around her neck and a Mad Hatter’s hat floating on her head, our sense of humor was in full throttle.

Which reminds me; how many Goddesses does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: None….. they are already enlightened!

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Millennials; Celebrate Yourselves, Even When Others Don’t

Millennia’s have a bad reputation. The media tells us they are entitled, spoiled and in constant need of approval. But I agree with James Wolcott who wrote in this month’s Vanity Fair; “We may need millennials to remind us what we should have remembered from the 60s, that social change comes only once you stop playing charades.”

Many of the young women I have met are passionate to make this turbulent world a better place. I admit, as a photographer working at the intersection of the women’s movement and goddess spirituality I have both a skewed and limited perspective. And yet, those I do meet are fiercely committed to a wide range of issues; the environment, animal rights, social justice, water quality, women’s spirituality, gender equality and more. Smart and entrepreneurial, these young women are using a new set of skills – social media savvy and technical acumen – to trumpet their demand for change.

Meet one such woman, Kiri Laurelle Davis; a filmmaker and social activist; a change maker; an artist with a mission.

In 2005, 16-year-old Kiri directed a short documentary film entitled “A Girl Like Me“.  Kiri used her film to explore the standards of beauty being imposed on today’s black girls. This powerful, award winning film underscored the negative toll Eurocentric standards were having on African American young women, harming their self esteem, self-image and fundamental self worth. Not content to stop there, Kiri continued to fuse her passion for art and activism by creating the Just Us Project, a multi-media platform to actively address social justice issues through media, art and community outreach. Kiri’s first media piece under this new platform is Our Lives Matter, a public service announcement that poignantly focuses on the racial profiling of young black and Latino boys.

In Goddess on Earth, each portrait begins with the subject’s choice of a goddess archetype to embody, and emerges from a place to personal reflection. Prior to getting together in person, I had a pre-conceived idea of what Goddess Kiri would want to portray. She would be a fierce lioness; a warrior, a fiery spirit forging a new trail with her sword/ camera. In fact, during our early phone conversations, I misconstrued her words. Oya, a Yoruba Goddess of wind and destruction was the sacred myth I thought she said she related to.

Only hours before we were to meet, did she gently correct me. Oshun, the Yoruba Goddess of sweet waters and beauty was the archetype she wanted to portray for Goddess on Earth. Oshun, Kiri said, was a Goddess of love, a sensuous woman, flowing with joy and feminine sexuality. Oshun resonated with her.

Oshun is noted for her beauty, which I feel goes beyond skin deep. I know the beauty in my reflection represents a rich culture of strength, creativity and brilliance. My blackness is beautiful to me because it symbolizes a fierce determination and perseverance. It depicts my own style, grace and a regal beauty that stem from my own distinctive and unique roots. I come from a people who have been exploited, enslaved, dehumanized, stereotyped and continue to rise in spite of tremendous obstacles.

Creating “A Girl Like Me” helped me develop a newfound courage and understanding when it comes to beauty and self love. Like Oshun, who represents beauty, love and art, I have found a loving strength and confidence in myself.

“I no longer look for others to affirm me. I affirm myself. I define myself. And with my art, I want to help women and girls celebrate themselves — even when others don’t. ” wrote Kiri.

YES! YES! YES! How fabulous! How empowered! How inspired! Here is a young woman, confidently embracing her own magnificence and using art to help shift all of our standards of beauty. Here is a young woman, while celebrating the 10th anniversary of her formidable first film, is creating new work teeming with grace, love and beauty, that tackles one of the profound problems of our time – racial injustice and police violence. I am in a state of wonder. Let us pay attention. We have things to learn from this generation.

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Finding Beauty in the South Bronx With Majora Carter

The great photographer Ansel Adams wrote: “Art is both the taking and giving of beauty.” No doubt about it, as a photographer, I get immense joy from finding, seeing and sharing the exquisite beauty in our world, both in my commercial and art work. But try as hard as I could, I could not find anything remotely attractive about the notorious Spofford Juvenile Detention complex in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx.

2012-08-13-MajoraGreenTara_1C.jpgMajora Carter, the Bronx born urban revitalization strategist, and I were in discussions to create her portrait for Goddess on Earth. She wanted it be in her own backyard, which just so happens to be The Spofford Juvenile Detention Center, a horrifically ugly, closed up, white behemoth that until last year housed troubled young men. Surrounded by barbed wire, with windows spattered with gun shot holes, and rusty old signs declaring “No Guns Beyond this Point,” it takes a pure visionary like Majora to see the possibility of transforming this vessel of pain and suffering into a green, sustainable, mixed income housing complex.

I have had the pleasure to hear Majora speak in public several times, and have been truly inspired by the passion and determination she brings to her lifeʼs work of connecting ecological and economical degradation with social inequality. In her renowned TED Talk Majora said:

“As a black person in America, I am twice as likely as a white person to live in an area where air pollution poses the greatest risk to my health. I am five times more likely to live within walking distance of a power plant or chemical facility — which I do.”

For Goddess on Earth, Majora chose to embody Green Tara. In Tibet, Green Tara is known as The Goddess of Compassion and the Mother of Liberation. In Buddhist theology, she helps individuals overcome obstacles with energetic action. Majora shared with me why Green Tara is a source of inspiration to her as she fights for both her neighborhood and environmental equality:

Green Tara embodies the pure wish to protect and support something — or someone – -that has been through so much. She is love, wisdom, and fierceness all rolled into one, qualities I want to live up to.”

On a hot, sweltering night in July, we photographed at various locations around the locked up facility on Tiffany Street. With Majora as a guide, I found grandeur in this neglected corner of the city. I discovered, as the English poet and painter William Blake wrote: “exuberance is beauty.” With Green Taraʼs energetic action, and Majoraʼs passionate and transformative commitment to her community, the beauty of the South Bronx was revealed to me — its splendor is in its people and their capacity for rebirth, renewal and creativity. With great joy, I share what I found in the South Bronx with you.

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