Her Graces / by Rebecca Tillett

I think every woman has a dear friend who can't appreciate her own beauty. In fact, I think nearly every woman is a woman who can't appreciate her own beauty. How many women do you personally know like that? Even more important, how long have you been looking in the mirror and cursing what you see? Every woman in my life is beautiful. Once, after viewing one of my latest photo series, someone asked me, "How is it possible that all of your friends are so beautiful?" At the time, I'm sure I replied that I just got lucky, but honestly, I believe that real, beautiful women are everywhere. And when I say, "real, beautiful," I mean beautiful in their authenticity and humanness. I've never photographed a perfect body or face, but perfection isn't beautiful. In spite of pop culture's attempt at making us think otherwise, deep down inside the nucleus of every cell of our being, we already know this. Perfection is strange. It's robotic and unnatural. Did you know all faces are asymmetrical, though we rarely notice it? Do you know how uncanny and unsettling it looks when an asymmetrical face is photoshopped into a symmetrical one? Having been a photographer of the unclothed female form, usually friends, for 15 years now, I've been privy to many self-denigrating and needless self-hating remarks. That's not to say that I don't understand it. Hell, I realize we're each our own worst critics. I've lost count of the numerous times I've been the subject of my own viewfinder, and have nearly been brought to tears by what I've seen in the pictures. And though there's no way to be objective when it comes to my own appearance, I'd be willing to put money on the fact that my self-imposed despair on the subject would be deemed ridiculous to outsiders. The woman below is my friend Kristin. We've been friends for probably 8 or 9 years now, and I've been nagging her for probably just as long to let me take her portrait. This is the perfect example of a beautiful woman who still can't grasp just how beautiful she actually is. Though she finally relented and allowed me these portraits, I know she was primarily doing it for me, not her. While I don't usually advocate sitting in front of a friend's camera lens because said friend has been pestering you for years to do it, I'm contented knowing that someday, maybe many years in the future, she'll stumble on these photographs and see the gorgeous young woman (and mother) that I've seen since the day I met her.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.
— Baz Luhrmann

p.s. We found the crown in a gift shop in Castle Rock this summer and I bought it, hoping that soon she'd let me photograph her wearing it.