What makes you beautiful?

I hate having my photo taken. I’m one of those people who either comes up well in a photo or very badly; if I have warning then I’m okay, but if you spring it on me I end up looking like Quasimodo. It’s worse at Christmas; there’s always some party to go to or family coming round, and there’s always someone with a camera lurking around waiting to steal my soul.

A lot of people feel like that with photos, but I probably take it a step further… what’s interesting though is that most people seem to come up better when it’s a spontaneous photo than when they’re posed. Catching someone in a moment just makes them seem more natural and it’s closer to the memory we want to keep.

I’ve been printing some photos for a friend over the last few days and the same thing’s true again. There are over 160 photos and most of them have come out well, but the ones which are stunning were all taken when they didn’t know they were being photographed. There was one photo of a couple of my friends that just jumped out at me; it’d be impossible to make them ugly but it seemed to capture the smile in their eyes, and that’s how I’ve always known them. None of the other photos caught that.

You often hear people say that it’s what’s on the inside that makes someone beautiful. It’s said so often that it’s become a cliché, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. When I think of beauty I don’t usually think of someone’s appearance… well, that’s not quite true. My first instinct is to look at that, if they’re presentable, attractive, but I’m more interested in their personality and who they are. I think someone can be very attractive but not beautiful. Someone who is a racist or have repugnant ideas could be the most fair person in the world but would still be undesirable and ugly in a much worse way.

That’s one reason I don’t like it when people say someone is sexy. Certainly someone can be sexy and it can be a compliment, but I’m not a fan of how it’s overused; sexy, sexed up, I find that’s more about lust and desire than anything empowering. Hearing that governments “sexed up” reports just sets my teeth on edge. I guess I’ve always thought of beauty as what we represent as a whole, while someone’s attractiveness (or sexiness) is more related to their appearance.

Those photos seemed to capture that beauty; more than just the appearance, it caught the light in their eyes, a smile, a laugh… it transcended the rest. Unfortunately it doesn’t work for me, but I think those kind of photos definitely seem to cast most people in a good light.

What all this makes me wonder, though, is how do we define beauty today? Has it changed, the definition evolved? I think the way beauty and sexy are used interchangeably now suggests that it has. One example would be Maxim’s recent list of the world’s 5 unsexiest women; Sarah Jessica Parker came first. I still don’t understand that. Maybe Jessica Alba is the current It Girl, but I don’t find SJP unattractive at all. I think there’s something to be said for having a little elegance and class; calling her horse faced is just cruel.

But that’s part of the culture we live in now. Appearances matter more than ever and our definition of beauty is skin deep. As long as we’re presentable and look a certain way, then someone will like us enough that we’ll feel good about ourselves…

I wonder what you think. How do you define beauty and looks? What makes you beautiful? I’d be interested to find out. 😉