Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
It is pink October and it is amazing to me how many of us are affected by breast cancer! We ALL know someone who has had to struggle with this challenging disease... (and if you don't, it may be that that a brave woman that you know, has just never talked about it).
Last year I started doing a photography project called "Grace". It is a photo-based project revealing the courage, beauty and 'grace' with which women who have survived breast cancer embody.
The "Grace" project will be an empowering tool for women with breast cancer, and their partners and families. The project will bring the general public face to face with the beauty and grace of the women who have faced breast cancer and through the braveness which they display by standing before the camera, increase both awareness for breast health and acceptance of the post-Mastectomy body.
I decided to photograph this project after the amazing experience of having a couple of women who had experienced mastectomy come to my studio for a boudoir shoot. One of them a friend of mine Sasha.
When I photographed these women, I sensed that they had a transformative experience in revealing their bodies to my camera. But in truth I also who had a transformative experience while photographing them.
Touched by their bravery, moved by the scarred beauty of their bodies and awed by the metamorphasis that these women had experienced, I knew in my heart that this was a path of photographing women that I needed to further explore. Thus began my project Grace.
In terms of this project, I have some exciting news. "Grace" was recently accepted for Fiscal Sponsorship by New York Foundation for the Arts. It is a huge honor and I'm really excited about the potential for this project.
What fiscal sponsorship means is that "Grace" is now under the umbrella of a not for profit sponsor. This means that I will be able to accept tax deductible donations for the project by individuals such as yourselves. It also means that I can apply for foundation grants, corporate gifts and other means of support.
If you would like to support this project, to see it grow, and allow opportunity for this work to reach its audience, please consider making a financial contribution by CLICKING HERE. The project title for the form is "Grace", and the artist to be filled in on the form is "Charise Isis".
Your donation however small will be greatly appreciated!
Needless to say, In honor of Pink October, and to celebrate this new development for the Grace project, The beautiful Goddess of the month I have chosen for October is my amazing friend Sasha.
My original collaboration and experience with Charise was very meaningful and intense for both of us. It was a last minute rush job, as I had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer October 19th 2006, and I wanted to be photographed before my surgery and mastectomy. I knew of Isis's work through artist friends and gave her a call, and as it happened we did the work on the Wednesday, before my surgery the following Monday.
It was so important to me in that our experience served as such a release, and a time to honor and accept what was happening. It had been a very extreme whirlwind of days and I was in shock as well, but together we were able to give the moment a relaxed, but ritualized tone. It was calming, and afterwards I was deeply grateful. When I saw them, well, the photos were beautiful.
We decided on meeting again after the operation, which was some weeks later, when I was able to get around and begin to heal. This was another session, in which the artistic effort between Charise and I , two people, two women, were able to create healing and even fun, despite the fact that the scars exposed the grace and brutality of the moment. When I look at the images from before the changes and then at the later group, there is a joy and beauty remaining in her photography.
-Sasha Chermayeff 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Most women I know are often self-depreciating, not only in the sense that they never qualify themselves to be ‘good enough’ but they never take the time just for sheer pleasure in themselves.
Juggling life is an act that most women live every day. The ball we often drop, is the one that represents taking time for our selves. I know after the birth of my son it was all I could do to inhale an evening meal.
I remember before becoming a Mother, hours of sitting in front of a mirror with a curling iron, carefully choosing a lipstick color to go with an outfit I was putting together. This all became shades of a previous existence that more or less disappeared from my life after I had a child. Instead, my life became filled with brightly colored plastic paraphernalia, monosyllabic words spoken in modulating tones and reduced sleep. Meanwhile, the fabulous and glamorous me sort of faded into the background.
As my son got older I began to focus on career. Joining the ranks of ‘career’ girls., I then became a Woman who within the scope of professionalism took the time to present well, keeping myself groomed and neat. And yet, still not with the studied sensuality of my younger days.
This time of year is extremely hectic. Summer is over and getting back into the regular work routine along with all of the back to school hoopla can be tough.
That is why I’ve chosen beautiful Amy as this month’s Goddess of the month. Not only does she work a full time job, but she is also a single mother with twin boys. Now there is a juggling act!!
A juggling act it definitely is. Every day is a struggle especially with school starting up again just to get everyone out the door and get to work on time let a lone do hair, makeup and be properly dressed for work. Every mother knows that scenario and for the single mother it is just a little more complicated. Getting everyone where they need to be and then picking them up, making dinner, getting homework done and getting everyone to bed after working an 8 hour day makes finding any time for your self almost impossible. Most nights by the time I put the twins to bed, I am too tired to even take off my makeup. However, I have found that the precious “me” time that is so hard to fit into the day is a necessary release to keep you sane. Isis’s pin-up classes are “me” time for me. Since my very first class I have been hooked. They are addicting or should I say the feeling you get from class is addicting and I try to attend one every six weeks or so. It is just a great escape from the every day stresses and responsibilities. It is a fun girlie afternoon with a group of other women playing dress up and finding their inner Goddesses. The whole experience from hearing the background on pin-up to getting your hair and makeup done and putting together an outfit that makes you feel sexy and glamorous is amazing and makes you realize that the person you thought you lost when you had children is still inside you she just needs to be allowed the time to be let out once and a while. And when you get in front of the camera you just lose yourself and become that Goddess which is the most liberating feeling. Of course I have to go back to reality eventually but when things get stressful and crazy and I feel that I don’t even have the time to comb my hair and must look a mess, I look at one of my pictures from pin-up class to remind me that I am Goddess even if I don’t always have the time to look like one on the outside. Pin-up classes give me the confidence to believe that just because I am a Mom doesn’t mean I can’t feel sexy and glamorous. Thank you Isis! Can’t wait for my next class!!!
Thursday, August 5, 2010
A true Goddess is surrounded by beauty. Every thing she sees and touches is made beautiful. True Goddess power is transformative. The magic is not that of actually changing the physicality of things, but of changing the way that we see things. What we choose to see is our reality.
This months Goddess is Ckeanna, a stunning example of the power of Goddess magic. Ckeanna is a pole dance instructor at Diva Fit Studios in Massapequa, Long Island. The atmosphere of the studio that she has created is there to encourage and nurture that Goddess presence in each of her students. Not only does Ckeanna live in her own beauty, by choosing to embrace the here and now, but she possesses even more of that magic by transforming those around her, encouraging their beauty by helping to change the way they ‘see’ themselves and others, freeing them up in their bodies and their minds.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
I truly believe that beauty is something that shines from the inside out, and not the other way around. I love doing the work that I do, because it gives women the opportunity to be present in their bodies. It allows them to indulge in their sensuality, and to express their beauty, and femininity.
It is every woman’s prerogative to express her inner Goddess…
I’m often disheartened by the way our culture treats ‘full figured’ women. Relegating them to frumpy clothes, under representing them in the media, dismissing their right to be sensual beings and making them the butt of our jokes. (We’ve all seen the foul humored greeting cards and chain emails)
I often start off my pin-up classes talking about how the original pin-up Goddesses were represented in the ancient cave paintings. These were images of gorgeous fertile, full bellied, pendulous breasted beauties, the pinnacle of worship at one time in our history.
The renaissance also saw the celebration of what has become known as the “Rubenesque” figure. But those paintings again, were simply a celebration of a full figured sensual female form… another earlier type of pin-up!
The denigration of full figured women at this time in our history does not serve us as human beings. It simply feeds the beast of insecurity that we all feel as women… We all need to make healthy choices in our lives… and making the choice to accept and love our bodies, as we are today, reveling in the joy of being alive and embracing our sensual nature regardless of our shape, size, or age, is probably one of the healthiest choices we can begin to make as women.
The Goddess of the Month for this month is Becky. A full figured Goddess, Becky embodies the joie de vie that I hope that every women gets to experience when she participates in one of my shoots. Becky’s joy clearly emanates from her portrait and there is no denying that she is an absolutely gorgeous woman.
My whole life I have been a “plus size” woman. In my early 20’s my weight went up and down as I tried to fit into society’s standards and “be beautiful”. I was the girl that was buddies with all the guys and never the girlfriend…and I remember thinking “What’s wrong with me, why can‘t they like me for who I am?”
I remember the summer I turned 23, I had finally gotten to the point that I really didn’t care how any one saw me, I was just going to be me and that was good enough. And if they didn‘t like it, well tough. I was sick and tired of trying to be something I was not. Battling to lose more and more weight, when I liked the way I looked. That was the summer that I started to accept myself, every last curve and pound.
That was also the summer that I caught the eye of a tall hunk of blond sweetness that I now call my husband. And in the weeks after I met him, I remember thinking, “he likes me just the way I am“. Even now all these years later, he gets who I am and loves me just the way I am. I am blessed.
So, fast forward about 11 years. I was taking a class at a local dance fit studio. When I was handed a flyer for a “Pin-Up Class”. Even accepting who I was and what I looked like, I didn’t picture myself as the curvy, leggy, gorgeous woman I thought of when we think pin ups! I pictured myself more as … jean wearing tough lady with strong arms… that is how I pictured myself. I was raised to be self sufficient, hard working and tough. I am a farm girl, born and raised. I drive a pick up and know more about farming then fashion. I think you are getting the picture.
I don’t know if I would ever have gone to that class, if it was not for the fact that I wanted something special for Valentine’s Day for my husband. I had some real reservations about doing the shoot. So, I found myself checking out the website that was listed on the bottom of the flyer. What I read on that website gave me the push to do the class. The photographer, our own lovely and talented Charise Isis, talked about photographing women of “different shapes, sizes, colors and backgrounds”. I could do this I thought.
But no matter how much I have accept my curves and sizes over the years, that class was the most empowering thing I have ever done for myself.
I felt like a star and the photos, well I didn't know I could look like that. I was that curvy, leggy, sexy pin up girl…so what if my legs are shorter then some….put on a pair of heels and a bustier and I will show you curvy & leggy. The gorgeous part, well that is how I felt on the inside seeing myself looking so fine and because of that it showed in those photos.
There is that old saying “Beauty is only skin deep”, I think beauty is about your soul. It is about the person you are and the person you want to be. It is accepting yourself in what ever outer package your soul is in.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
It had me thinking how often women listen to the self-critic in the mirror. I’ve seen hundreds of women stand in front of the mirror… and cut off not just pieces but chunks of their body in their minds. What we see in the mirror is often not an accurate version of ourselves, but a distorted one.
It’s time as women to see our selves as more than the sum of our parts… to quiet the inner critic… and to listen to those gentle voices in and around us, the ones that see our beauty and our potential. When we listen to those voices, they then become our mirror opening us up to a whole new world of possibility.
The Mirror is a tricky tool... Almost a life of it's own, dancing between being a friend and a foe... two sides; a mirror can show one's beauty, or sit on the panel as the harshest critic.
Nah, of course we all know that the mirror is an inanimate object, and that it is indeed in the eyes of the looker to perceive and "assess" what it is that they see... But not many of us recognize the power we hold as the perceivers we have come to be. The same tool can be used to uplift or damage, but in the end it is we who use them to either demolish, or recognize a finely crafted work.
So many of us shroud ourselves in insecurity. We all have at some point or another… Cloaked in this rough and gritty shroud of perfectly justifiable insecurity, we have been trained and domesticated to eat the poison apple… Snow White ran from that reflection, and found the 7 Dwarfs. She was cared for, and her new perspective became the archetypes of each of those dwarfs, grumpy, sad, needy, lonely, funny, joyous, dopey… and in the end.. It was her reflection on the kiss of prince charming which gave her the "happily ever after". She had so many choices in these external mirrors, and she chose that of the handsome man rather than her own true reflection, from her center.
And we were trained just so; to look out for a reflection that fits, and well… we are pretty much hell bent on regurgitating what we believe- even if much of what we believe we see is not what we wish was so. And regurgitation multiplies. Focus is power, even when we are not aware of that power. Practiced focus is the most powerful. It's what shapes our ever changing now. As we rev up our engines and barrel down the runway, it is most important to see the destination, be clear about it, and, if after careful assessment, we see that it really is a desired destination, take off. The bricks are far easier to remove from the runway… before we start the engines.
As we are domesticated we come to some pretty clear decisions about who we are, and we relate from those places, beginning early on. And unless we are pretty fortunate, we are often sent out onto runways we didn’t even want to be on, much less given the time or opportunity to clear them from our own centered place of knowing. The way we look at our bodies is often far from any centered place of knowing, and rather from some pretty displaced critical place.
I don't do scales. I never have. We had one in my bathroom as a child, but it didn't work. I remember it was yellow with a big bulbous face... It was always ten or twenty lbs. off, but you got on it anyway just to hear the mechanics inside squeak out some random number. I don't know if it was that scale or the fact that I was always slender, but weight was never an issue for me. Until I had a baby. He came out but the weight never left. I really didn't notice how much until I got on a scale in a friend's bathroom. The thing said I weighed 190 lbs! There was no way it could be right. I went home and got naked in front of the mirror. Turning as though I was on a slow roasting spit, I searched my body to no avail for any evidence that could prove the scale right. No matter how many times I turned, or ways I bent I couldn't believe it, how could i fit all that weight into my body? Instead of getting on another scale, I decided that I would let the weight go and left it at that. Several months later I stepped on that same scale and found myself 35 lbs lighter.
I knew that all it took was to let it go.
Some years later, I suffered the wrath of birth control pills. Actually I think that the real work in those god forsaken pills is to make a woman frumpy, depressed and eventually, undesirable. The secret behind Birth Control Pills: eventual involuntary abstinence. (But that's another topic altogether...)
I found myself gaining weight again. This time, it was the mirror telling the tale. There was no denying that I had put some pounds on, and it was clear where it was landing. I didn't have to turn far to find the flab, and now I felt rather like a pig on that slow roasting spit. I was once again standing in front of the mirror in disbelief, but this time it wasn't the scale that I couldn't believe. For two years, just knowing that I could change my view and drop the weight, wasn't enough. I actually had to change my view, and it occurred to me that if I just stopped looking altogether, maybe I could see it go. It went. Within three months of stepping away from mirror gazing, I had to come up with an entire new wardrobe. People stopped me for my formula, "How did you lose all that weight? You have to be dieting? Exercising?" Nope, I ate a bialy this morning with a pool of butter in the middle.
Many people watch their calories and go on diets cutting out certain or most foods, remaining focused on their intake in order to lose weight and more often than not, keep the weight.
I watched my mind, went on a mirror diet and cut out the mirror and thereby a lot of negative chatter and remained focused on being joyous in order to enjoy my days. And it worked.
If you read the last paragraph again, you will find a difference in the typical way people go about diets and my methods, can't say mine is the right one for all, but it was for me.
There are theories that suggest that extra weight is padding against negativity. Some theories suggest that extra weight is the result of too much food. And/or a combination of both. And maybe it is. But I know for myself, that my body; a microcosm- is responding, much like my life experience; a macrocosm, to how I focus my attention.
The mirror, a perfect example, reflects with purity, that of the gazer.
The mirror will show nothing more than what one looks for.
You can use a mirror to see the beauty or find a fault, and it is the looker who decides.
What you see is what you get.
I cannot say what it was that has brought me to feeling beautiful, in my body or beside the love of my life, but I can say that looking for beauty rather than noticing and scolding what I find in the way of that beauty, has a lot to do with it.
I believe that Isis was taken by my experience because she acts, in her work, like the mirror we wish we all had on our dressing table; the one that comes looking for the beauty... finds it and reflects it back.
And you have no choice but to believe her. Her mirror is a lens and you get to keep a bit of what she sees.
(ps. to view more of Rachel's writing please visit http://www.palaceofmuse.wordpress.com )