Beauty is skin deep

Commercial beauty is rarely the full picture. We are constantly exposed to images, mainly through advertising and fashion, that set the parameters of perfection.
We probably know they are false, unattainable, yet the daily drip of re-touched, paradise backdropped ‘beauty’ inevitably confusess our senses of rational determination.
But that corruption is being re-calibrated by a fascinating and challenging project that puts people with skin conditions in front of the camera. And it is not just any camera, it is one wielded by celebrated photographer Rick Guidotti, who has worked with towering beauties such as Cindy Crawford and the top fashion houses in Milan, Paris, New York and London.
I met him last week on the campus of pharmaceutical giants Novartis, in Basel, and traditional glamour was the last thing on his mind.
“I was always told who was the model of the day. I was told who was beautiful and I bought it,” he said. “But it was ultimately frustrating. I am an artist and I don’t want to be told what is beautiful.”
A change meeting with a teenager with albinism on the streets of New York changed his focal length outlook on life and work and he started championing diversity through his photographs.
Out went the supermodels, catwalk drones and prescriptive booking agencies and Positive Exposure was born.
It is his mission to re-define beauty, strip away the camouflaging gloss and shows us a stigma-challenging reality.
Who photographs people with chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis and chronic spontaneous urticaria? Rick does. And he is passionate.
He is working on a project, supported by Novartis’s Skin to live in campaign, that shows these real models for the real people they are. No studio, just natural light and people freed to live in their skin.images
17 people from 11 countries stepped out of the shadows to be photographed by Rick for the campaign. One of them happens to be a ballet dancer from New York, who was struck by psoriasis when she was three-years-old; another is a mum from Brazil. His gallery shows the person beyond the condition and it is refreshing.
He photographed them as beauties; in the past they shunned the camera and were only used as examples in medical textbooks. His work covers all forms of genetic diversity and, with his expert touch, the character not the condition shines through.
Rick’s passion is like a waterfall, check him out on an inspiring TEDX talk
We have an easy facility to look away when we see something different and as we are continually bombarded by images of what is and isn’t acceptable the field of ‘normal’ vision narrows….we become less accepting. We also have less time to stop and consider.
I’ve interviewed many people with skin conditions and, although the physical pain and discomfort sound corrossive, the damage to their confidence and self-esteem is evident. They talk about being prisoners in their own skin….stop just a minute to consider that.

Having to itch, scratch and squirm is one (enormous) thing but to have your personality and opportunities compromised is another (equally enormous) thing.
Medical advances have provided relief for sufferers and the work decoding the IL-17A pathway that is a route to debilitating skin conditions is truly game-changing for millions worldwide. But it will take us a bit longer to look and see through eratz beauty.
Rick sums it up perfectly…
Change how you see
See how you change


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