Sunday, August 8, 2010

Age, Beauty, and Modeling

I took a number of images of my niece today and also a guest from Martinique.  It was meant to be good fun - which it was! - and to be practice for me - which it was! - and a "gift" to Lou from Martinique - which it was!  My niece is 11, soon to be 12.  She's a beautiful and talented girl with aspirations to be a model.  So, today was modeling day.  My niece brought a couple of cute dresses and a bikini, flip flops and high heels.  We were having a great time and I was trying for a variety of looks since most models will need to look a zillion different ways.  I was amazed at how well both girls took direction and how the camera really loved them.  But then, when I got home and looked at the pictures, I discovered something else.  My 11 year old niece  And, I had encouraged it and even asked her to pose particular ways which enhanced the sexiness.

Did she want to be sexy?  Of course.  Isn't that what girls think beauty is?  Isn't that the bill of goods that our culture has sold to our little girls?  Is it OK to want to be attractive?  Yes!  But it needs to be balanced with innocence, purity, joy, love, laughter, fun...

Is this what magazines and such will want?  Of course!  Is it right?  No.  I don't think it is.  My niece is a young girl, not even a teenager yet.  Our culture is so preoccupied with sexiness, looks, youth.  I had bought into it hook line and sinker without even being fully cognizant of what I was doing.

Of course I want my niece to be beautiful and to think of herself as beautiful.  But beauty does not need to equal sex and lust.  Beauty is so much more than that.  I feel as though I stole some of her innocence today and I'd like to give it back.  I want my pictures to add to the joy, peace, love, and innocence of the world.  I want my pictures to capture the inner beauty.  And, so, here is the picture that I feel best captures all of my niece's beauty and innocence.  I love you, M!


  1. Well said, Terri. So I guess this means getting your own head into the right place is a new part of preparing for photo sessions, especially of "tween" girls, eh?

  2. i looked at your photos before i knew that you wrote this & was wondering how old she was. we all buy into the 'sexy = beauty' thing at one time or another...usually more often than that. i love what you have written here. it's very insightful and important that you look at this issue from not only your point of view, but also from your niece's (in terms of her beauty desires). she is a beautiful girl. as photographers sometimes we can get wrapped up in metering, lighting, aperture, trying new techniques & poses, that we can disconnect a bit and not take in an image as a whole. i find that to be a blessing and a curse.

    i love love love the photo that you chose to put w/ this entry. you truly are a wonderful photographer. time to cast off the "hook, line and sinker" catch! we can change the game.

  3. Some wonderful reflections in this post...

  4. I've thought about this topic alot since this photo shoot and have had mixed reactions from friends. Some, like you, have understood my quandary. Others were completely baffled that it should be a quandary at all. I find the whole thing fascinating. But, as Carol so aptly put it, I need to make sure my head is in the same place as my heart as part of my preparation for a shoot. Thanks for all the comments!

  5. I've seen these photos and never asked you about them. My thought went to how old is she and did she want to pose like that for a job? I don't think of you as buying into the "hype" about how young girls should look sexy, so it was interesting to read your post about your struggle with them.
    Great thoughts and lovely photo that you picked.

  6. Well, this young girl was 11 at the time. And, yes, she wanted to model this way. But, being my beloved niece, well, it just didn't feel right when I looked at the pictures later. She's a sweet girl. I want her to stay that way!!! And, she will, I'm sure. And she'll perhaps reach her goal of modeling some time. And retain hopefully retain her sweetness and innocence in the process. I love you, girl!