Seeing myself beautiful
It’s been a month since my photoshoot with photovangelist, writer and poet – Saddi Khali. Since, throughout his trip to South Africa – and before, I had been using the GrownNSexy platform in all it’s guises to punt the potentially transformative effects of his work – I felt it was only fair to show and prove.
Saddi’s mission statement is encapsulated in five simple words… “Let’s see ourselves beautiful, again”. In testament to his fulfillment of that mission with every shoot, immediately after seeing the beautiful works of art he created out of me and my family, it truly wasn’t hard to do just that. Within just an hour of our shoot with Saddi, I was different. I walked different, looked in the mirror different and – I guess most importantly – saw myself different.
But now it’s been a month. The butterflies that came from laying myself bare in front of his lens have long since fluttered away. What I deemed social media to be worthy of displaying has been uploaded; the many different resulting profile pics have been cropped, changed and posted tens of times; and the full folder of pictures has laid dormant on my laptop ever since.
But the experience has lived on.
I had a (long overdue) girls’ day this past weekend and the excitement with which I enquired of my friends whether they had taken up the opportunity to book a shoot with Saddi surprised even me. I couldn’t wait to hear from them what they had experienced: but imagine my disappointment when I realised that none of the ladies in attendance had gone for it. As 🙁 as that was for me, I realised that I couldn’t possibly expect to put anyone on something I had had no personal experience of myself. So I decided that in anticipation of his return to SA in August, I’d put some real questions on the record that we should all ask ourselves before making a private booking (in secret hopes that my girls would finally do this one awesome thing for themselves):
1) Why him?
I had the pleasure of meeting Saddi in person – hosting him at my place on one rainy day and then helping him celebrate his birthday soon after – all a few weeks before my actual shoot. While waiting on the next alcohol run at my place on the first night, he asked me one very pointed question that really made me think: ‘Why me?’, he said.
Lesson: You’ve gotta know what you wanna do different. I’ve done shoots before – gone into ‘studios’ and had my face caked in make up before, and my body contoured with photoshop afterwards. Those pics turned out great – ready for any magazine cover – but Saddi is not that guy. In his own words, he “travels around the world taking pictures of ‘nekkid’ people”. After paying your deposit (or the full fee in my case), when shoot day rolls around why would you still wanna go for the same-old-same-old? You need to ask yourself: What do you wanna overcome? What do you wanna see? What do you wanna be left with when he’s left your city/country, money in hand?
2) Why you?
One thing Saddi showed me is that we each have a level of absolute beauty that we deny ourselves. He even admits it of himself. When, after my shoot, he told me about my special ‘hook’ (I love you all, but the details end there. Sorry), I was shocked! How could he find something beautiful in what I possibly considered to be the least attractive part of my post-baby body? At any other time, I wouldn’t have wanted to hear what anyone thought of that part of my body, but I can’t explain how thrilled I was to know that someone whose entire livelihood depends on finding beauty, saw some beauty in that exact body-part.
Lesson: Be willing to have the questions that you don’t want to ask answered for you. I wanted to see myself portrayed as beautiful in images, but Saddi goes beyond that. Yes – he will show you in pictures how beautiful you really are. But, if he feels the message has not been heard, he is not afraid to say it in words either.
3) Who else?
Saddi puts it right up-front that the choice is completely yours as to who to share your photos with and where. But don’t get it twisted; he will tell you when he thinks there is one shot that just is too good to keep under wraps. He is an amazing ambassador for his work. As a person, what you see is really what you get and, as an artist who I admired before I ever even knew him, I found it impossible to distrust his opinion of what is not only beautiful, but also meaningful.
Lesson: There can be no progress without follow-through.You go away from the shoot with at least 100 digital images of yourself as a natural, beautiful being. Saddi recently said “what’s the GANGSTA in booking me 4 pics & going thru all the hard work of getting past all ur fears & working 2 b com42ble in a session only 2 go back 2 shame & hide all the pics“. If you follow him on Facebook, you would have seen some of the ridiculous controversy that statement caused. As someone who’s done my shoot and answered the first two question posed in this post, I know that the person that was photographed on that day is honestly and truly me. The me I actually want the world to know… I couldn’t get any realer, rawer, or more authentic. When I smiled it was from the heart, when I looked at my husband it was with pure love, and when I held my boy it was with unreserved pride. I did not post everything on Facebook – in fact it was only two or three pics (and my favourite was the one pictured above, that Saddi posted himself). But trust me when I say that whatever I didn’t post was not out of shame; I just didn’t feel the need. For me, the follow-through does not lie in sharing my ‘nekkidness’ with the world, but in amplifying the new-found beauty I see in myself… through how I love, the words I speak and, the truths I accept. And that extends far beyond what any prying social media eyes could ever even imagine.
So in a nutshell, ‘No’. Saddi Khali did not change my life. Not in a month. But he’s certainly changed me through his art; and isn’t that the first step? Does all change not start from within?
The effect of seeing yourself portrayed as art is nothing short of profound. And having it done through the lens of someone as sincere and masterful as Mr Khali, will undoubtedly change your outlook… If only for a day. But sometimes a day is all you need. And if you know what you want and why, that day will be the first day of living your life as you truly are – an incredibly beautiful being.
Images: Saddi Khali (c)