Mark Laubenheimer (website and Tumblr) is a Seattle based photographer with whom I've had the distinct pleasure to work with recently. To be able to adequately describe my experience working with him in one sentence would be like attempting to explain the concept of a flower to someone who has lived beneath the ground their entire life. Speaking of flowers, Mark and I talked a lot about them during our pseudo-therapeutic photo session; both believing that they can be metaphors for women in many ways. Whether it be a woman's buttoned up shirt as the vase to present her beauty, the idea that women comparing themselves to each other is as futile as a rose comparing itself to a hydrangea (in that both are stunning in separate yet alike ways,) or that our bodies can be used to represent a tightly held bulb or a full and vivacious bloom: women and flowers are both lovely, functional, complex, and pleasing to the eye.
Mark's philosophy is that all women are beautiful. Plain and simple. He doesn't cover his subject's potential up with makeup, styling, or distracting wardrobe...he does the opposite. Getting ready for a session with him is akin to getting ready to go to the spa- no makeup, comfortable clothes, and an underlying feeling that you are going to leave feeling more beautiful than when you arrived. The shoot itself was relaxingly delightful with regular breaks to stretch, breathe deeply, and laugh. He understands that not many people can force genuine expressions of joy so every now and then Mark will pull out one of his horrible, yet endearing, jokes to get you to giggle. Since I am a sucker for puns it worked on me every time. I can't remember any of them but I'm pretty sure one of them had to do with hippies and the punchline "far out."
Now that I've delved into background I'm going to talk about who I am and how this experience has affected me. Insecurity is something everyone faces regardless of gender. For me personally I've had a rough time coping with body image and self-esteem since I was young. Things got pretty dark in my head and from the ages of 15-17 I went through a really negative, destructive period. This past year of my life, living with my sister, modeling, being in a happy and loving relationship, traveling the world and introspecting constantly has fostered so much personal growth. I can confidently say now that I am beautiful. I did photo shoots when I was younger and during that time of constant self-hate I would see photos that photographers took of me and feel nauseated because I was embarrassed and ashamed by how ugly I looked. Now I look at those photos wondering why the younger me couldn't notice her bloom. I decided I won't keep looking back and wishing I had appreciated who I was in the past...I've got to appreciate who I am now.
Mark Laubenheimer has given me an incredible gift. I'm not one for clichés or sappiness (in fact, I tend to cringe at both) but for the sake of honesty I have to say that Mark gave me the gift of helping me to fall in love with myself again and reminding me that I need to stop trying to be a lilac if my essence is that of a carnation. I've realized that I have the spirit of an artist though I've never been able to pinpoint how to express that. I don't paint often, drawing doesn't speak to me, and I don't have the dedication to practice music or photography but perhaps in being a muse to artists I can revel vicariously in the role I play in their art. To model is to allow yourself to be a canvas for creative minds but could it be said that in being immersed in their vision I contribute to the end project as well? I suppose that's debatable, let me know what you think.
I leave you with a quote that inspired much of how I view my beauty and the beauty of all the women I know:
“A rose can never be a sunflower, and a sunflower can never be a rose.
All flowers are beautiful in their own way, and that’s like women too.
I want to encourage women to embrace their own uniqueness.”
- "Treasure Yourself" by Miranda Kerr