I used to think that I wanted to be a fashion photographer. The problem is, I just don’t “get it” when it comes to some of the fashion photography I see in magazines. Over time, I have come to realize what I like about fashion is its’ ability to capture “beauty” when it chooses to do so. You see, it is not fashion that I enjoy – it is beauty.
It almost seems politically incorrect to say “I enjoy photographing beauty.” The thing is, beauty takes on so many different forms and comes in so many different packages. Too many people think real beauty is only for super-models. There are those who feel that they are only beautiful after they have put on make-up. Others think beauty is wearing the latest trends found at the mall. These things are all fine and good, but none of them equals beauty! Real beauty is far too complicated to put in a bottle, or on a hanger or in a magazine. Society equates beauty with a cute face and a perfect nose and pouty lips. Some even try surgery to get that perfect nose and pouty lips. It is as if, without these, beauty does not exist, and nothing could be further from the truth!
It was interesting to me to read what my Webster’s Dictionary says about beauty:
“beauty n. 1: the qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit”
Notice, it says nothing about “looks” or “easy on the eyes” or “drop-dead gorgeous”. You see, beauty is not just a visual thing! The definition refers first to qualities. When you talk about the qualities of a person, you look far beyond the surface of the person. You take into account his or her capacity to care, to love, to share, to hope. You examine that person’s relationship with others and their ability to communicate without speaking a word.
The definition uses the word “pleasure” twice. First, it mentions “pleasure to the senses.” The sense of sight is only one of five! Certainly a person who is blind can find beauty in the sound of a voice which speaks with love and passion. A person who is deaf perhaps finds beauty in the way a companion touches their hand. There is nothing quite like the beauty of spring in Yankee Boy Basin near Ouray, Colorado. The sights and sounds and crispness in the air can cause one to almost miss the over-powering beauty of the aroma of thousands of wildflowers and blooming pines and cedars. Finally, is there anything that compares to the beauty found in the taste of a kiss from someone you love? One songwriter describes it as “a taste of honey, tasting much sweeter than wine.”
The second use of “pleasure” is my favorite part of the definition as the meaning of “beauty” clearly moves away from a visual aspect to having a more far-reaching impact. When it says, “pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit”, I feel like this more clearly defines its’ true measure by broadening the meaning to include anything that inspires or uplifts. It is through this broadened definition that beauty can be found in a sunset, a child’s laugh, a lover’s embrace, snow, city lights, music, a mother’s touch, ballet, the ocean, a heartbeat, art, time alone and time with someone special. You see, beauty can be found just about everywhere we look.
There are those who choose to censor particular aspects of beauty, especially when it pertains to the human figure. With some of my work, I have chosen to celebrate the beauty of the human form and have done so without guilt or shame. I personally hold the beauty of the female form in the same regard and awe as I do the view from any mountain summit, any rugged canyon, or any ocean shoreline. I trust my own instincts as an artist to be able to present my vision with the respect and reverence that I feel fine art requires and my subject deserves. I also understand that there are those who would still view this as vulgar or offensive no matter what. My travels in the back country across the San Juan Mountains have taught me that some will never appreciate the beauty at the summit for fearing the journey it takes to get there.
I see beauty all around me – in the places I travel, the people I meet and yes, the faces I see. I am fortunate enough to have a career which allows me to be moved and motivated by the beauty I find in people and places. I am blessed to have the ability to share some of those visions with you.
– Steve Kozak –