iris |ˈīris|

noun

1 a flat, colored, ring-shaped membrane behind the cornea of the eye, with an adjustable circular opening (pupil) in the centre. • (also iris diaphragm) an adjustable diaphragm of thin overlapping plates for regulating the size of a central hole, esp. for the admission of light to a lens.

 2 a plant with sword-shaped leaves and showy flowers, typically purple, yellow, or white. Native to both Eurasia and North America, it is widely cultivated as an ornamental. • Genus Iris, family Iridaceae (the iris family): many species and numerous hybrids, including the crested dwarf iris ( I. cristata) and the sweet iris ( I. pallida). The iris family also includes the gladioli, crocuses, and freesias.

3 a rainbow or a rainbowlike appearance.

verb [ intrans. ]

(of an aperture, typically that of a lens) open or close in the manner of an iris or iris diaphragm.

ORIGIN modern Latin, via Latin from Greek iris ‘rainbow, iris.’

 

When I first saw this image, I quietly breathed to myself, “Oh…it looks like a real painting!”

On more than one occasion, I’ve had people question whether my images are paintings or photographs. I take it as a compliment to have my images appear as paintings; it means that they belong in the realm of art. I love the overall softness of this image. And as it often goes, it was the only one in this series that had this particular look. Moments like this galvanize and lift me.

Iris, also a namesake, has multiple meanings, the origin being a rainbow or a rainbow-like appearance, referring to the rainbow as the iris of the sun, or even moon: the gateway to light. How rich and beautiful the meaning of the word is. There is a magical quality to the iris; for the mechanism of said object, which regulates and permits light to flow inward is rife with symbolism: the amount of light that we allow to flow into our lives can often determine the mood and quality of our very existence. To shut ourselves off in the shadows, to downcast our gaze is almost always detrimental.

Writer Elizabeth Gilbert once penned, “Turn your face stubbornly to the light, and keep it there.” And for good reason. As well, one of the most courageous among us, Helen Keller, who learned how to write after she broke free of her own personal prison of being both blind and deaf, gave us this: Keep your face to the sunlight and you cannot see the shadows. Simply put, sunlight makes people happy. I experienced this firsthand when I lived in Barcelona. No city, no idyllic place on Earth is perfect, but I observed a general state of contentedness that I also felt after being immersed in the city for a while. Collectively, each city has a mood; and the element of daily sunlight, more days of sunlight than anywhere else in Europe, has the ability to greatly uplift and shift one’s spirits to a happier place.

There have been many studies on the healing properties of sunlight. And in Spain, people embrace it in a way that is different from the UV phobic attitudes of the west. People let themselves sun on the beach in a way that people did 50 years ago in many western countries. At first, I resisted, but then I too, surrendered to light. And my relationship with the golden glow changed. I would slip into reverie about Egyptian sun worship. In conversation with my godmother, who is now in her 70s, she spoke of how in her late teens and early twenties she used to lay on the beach in South Africa with baby oil on her face. We spoke about skin, and ageing, and I told her about the different attitude towards ageing in Spain. It might sound like a platitude, but women never stop being beautiful in Spain. There is an energy, a beauty, that people carry within them throughout their lives. Perhaps love and worth are not conditional on appearances in Spain, and is why such importance is placed on them in the west.

I am a graduate of the Creative Photography Program at Humber College. Having been processed through the machine of photo-school changed my perception of the media and its portrayal of women forever. Having seen how judgmental, cynical, and critical the photography industry is of women’s faces and bodies deeply disturbed, even traumatized me. My Photoshop professor, a portly man in his late fifties would give entire lectures dedicated to criticizing a model’s face and natural attributes, and then grade us on how well we could erase her imperfections.

North American culture is obsessed with the perfection of youth. But having been professionally trained in how to retouch and manipulate images liberated and empowered me in knowing how much more human these girls and women are in the eyes of the lens—pre-post.

One of the benefits of art school is that you become visually literate. You can read the light source in images. You can deconstruct how an image was produced. In Barcelona, I spent a fair amount of time standing on subway platforms, analysing images to pass the time. At first, having been so influenced by my professional training, I was taken aback by the un-retouched images I saw. These were full sized, back-lit images where every line and pore was visible. But then I started to realize that these images, and this quality of unashamed realism is true to the Spanish way of life. I started to open my eyes to the women around me, and see a cultural acceptance, and even love of natural beauty…in others, and even myself.

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