"Nature gives you the face you have at 20, life gives you the face you have at 30, but at 50 you get the face you deserve." -Coco Chanel
Portraits, like pearls are most beautiful when they capture the luminous radiance of light. You're mistaken if you think that a striking image comes solely from the features set before you. We're but the black velvet whose purpose is to offset and showcase the dazzle of of light. Look for it.
These days, we seem to confuse beauty for perfection, but trust me, beauty can be found everywhere, ample galleries of great beauty abound, found even in destitute and frayed alley ways, where perfection dare not show its starched, immobile face. In fact, the beauty captured in a portrait is most often and most poignantly illuminated where no trace of what is perfect exists: a windswept desert landscape, a slivered glimpse of the pockmarked moon, the ocean battered crags of a seaside rock. Beauty = the marks of time + the stillness of the moment + the illumination of light.
We are pearls, really, by age 50. The inner light that effuses, is mined from every bump, every bramble and briar patch you've managed to make it through. While perfection in a portrait holds little value or interest, personality mines the motherlode. Within the lens aimed at age fifty, you are best expressed as a receptacle of light.
In fact, our persona and character seem to take on an even more piquant flavor as we age. Coco Chanel once said that "nature gives you the face you have at 20, life gives you the face you have at 30, but at 50 you get the face you deserve." Age 50 supplies little solace derived from the dewy charms of youth, but it does serve up a sense of raw power that comes from knowing the stuff you are made of. Your suffering has marked you, as does your joy, and those laugh lines, worry lines, wrinkles, scars and age spots will make their inevitable appearance; a time stamp to your orbit as anniversary markers, like tree rings.
The portrait isn't about the representation of the scientific exactitude of facts however. The truth is, a good portrait isn't even an accurate portrayal of said laugh lines, creases or scars, it's about using the right light as a source to illuminate them. It can be argued that an honest portrait uses an generous dose of fiction. "Art is a lie told to tell truth," to quote Picasso, who knew a thing or two about art, aging and portraits. The portrait is the art of the capture- the way pearls exhibit beauty by their radiance, a good portrait highlights the character from an essence extracted from light. You edit, you cajole, you capture: shadow, crevice, shape, stillness, frame and focus. These properties are ruthlessly bent to the artist's will, under the brilliant dominion of light.
A great portrait puts light to good use. The best light for a woman in her fifties is natural sunlight streaming from a side window. This side light tends to blanch out imperfections (such as crow's feet, frown lines,) while adding a contrast to the details sketched from the shadows (a bit of cheek, a glint of eye.) If you are the smiling type, it may showcase those smiles, and if you're a bit dour, it may read, if you're lucky, as thoughtful.
The gray scale details add depth and textural interest; of which your freckles, wrinkles, and their counterparts showcase your vulnerability, an element which makes for the best sort of portrait, one that connects the sitter to the viewer. It's the soft underbelly of vulnerability that provides the craved for cohesion of one person to another person. It's this ingredient that constitutes the siren call of a baby's cry, and the irresistible perfume that infuses the smell of kittens. Perfection has no such underbelly, which is possible why its presence often leaves us feeling cold and dull.
Personality is the shadow play of one's character, embedded in the nooks and crannies of our physical features. Each dent and sag shows a reflection of our histories and serve as souvenirs for our circumstance. These momentoes need not be pretty, there is no need for pretty. An expressive face can't help but uncannily depict the soulful self, and like a freshwater pearl, the results may be lumpy, mottled and misshapened, but the inner workings of her nacre, are impossible to be denied.
These self portraits were taken indoors, July, 2015, with an iPhone 4.
They were edited with PicMonkey.