On Kindness, Beauty & the Blockchain
Staying on course while navigating the strong currents of change
For close to two years now, I’ve been working on a vast photography project called Decentralized Beauty. In this work, I photograph myself and others and seek to capture the primordial beauty we naturally embodied before our very understanding of beauty was obfuscated and shaped by the ageist, sexist, racist conditioning and body shaming propaganda of the dominant Western cultural paradigm.
“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”– Diane Arbus
I — Innate, primordial beauty
As we continue to move away from the worst of the pandemic, I am able to work with models again, which is not only more rewarding than working alone, it makes for a better conversation around this potent experiential theme and naturally allows for a whole lot more diversity in terms of the range of images I am able to share. I almost exclusively photograph humans who identify as female and I have a strong preference for models over the age of 40. There is no age limit for my models: I recently photographed a stunning 87 year old nude model.
Each new woman I photograph comes bearing gifts: her trust in me and her desire to take her power back by letting go of limiting beliefs around what beauty allegedly looks like in Western culture. I use the term “Western culture” loosely here: I’m not a cultural anthropologist, yet I am also sharply aware of the persistence of a Western cultural ideal of beauty, still largely shaped by Hollywood and “television”, as well as a constant flurry of more recent Influencers, and of course the ubiquitous advertisers, not to mention fashion and cosmetic conglomerates, etc.
Each photo shoot is preceded by one or more in-depth conversations, in which the model often opens up about the joys and also the challenges of the unrelentingly objectified female form in a world forever trying to make us believe that consumer goods will somehow allow us to measure up, if only for a moment. I’ve observed that in these conversations, statements are often framed through the right brained analytical lens of quantification: I’m too much, I’m not enough, I’m too old, too skinny, too late to the party, too curvy, not tall enough (…) and so on and so forth.
Perpetually caught between too much and not enough women still intuitively understand that no amount of retail therapy will bolster their self-confidence for more than the few seconds it takes to ring up a credit card transaction. My job, as I see it, is to invite the models to strip down to the bare minimum and then for me to reflect back to them their jaw dropping beauty, in all its splendor, regardless of age, education, economic circumstance, ethnicity, religion or indeed any other sociocultural marker.
“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”–Dave Ramsey
II — Sovereignty is the gateway drug
Of course by the time a model finds herself in conversation with me, she already knows that all the pricey capitalistic accoutrements are at best superfluous. Often the jewelry and the wardrobe are just shackles in disguise, requiring upkeep and upgrades in order to sustain the illusory losing battle of keeping up with any number of imaginary Joneses.
My form of energetic exchange with the models is to capture their unique beauty and then gift them a photograph, either in print form or as a CNFT. My preference of course is the latter, mostly because it feels far more subversive!
Every time I mint a CNFT for a one of my models, I feel like Timothy Leary or Richard Alpert, aka Ram Dass, turning on another grad student! I assume most of my models have already had LSD at one point or another in their life journey, so I give them the next best thing: a stiff dose of blockchain love! I enjoy nothing more than giving out this gateway drug to the sexy babes who come and pose for me. And I will openly confess here, I’ve gotten a few of them hooked on cryptocurrency and/or jpegs.
While it has helped that I’ve put together an informal Cryptocurrency & NFTs 101 course for “friends and family”, it’s been surprisingly easy to encourage these women to get set up with some ADA and a wallet. Some of the more feisty ladies are toying with the the radical idea of full on debanking!
“Kindness is my religion.”–His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama
III — Kindness is über gangsta
The good news is that over time, I’ve upped my game and I’ve gotten to a place where I can confidently answer typical newcomer questions as they relate to cryptocurrency and NFTs. Predictably, my atypical models have proven to be intellectually agile and curious. One lady in her late 70’s emailed me a few days after her shoot to enquire: “Ultimately, is proof of work or proof of stake more important?”
I was tired so I picked up my phone to have a conversation rather than deliver a not especially original spiel in response to her textbook query. As so often when chatting with a likeminded spirit, the conversation rapidly went off on a tangent. I can’t recall what the intermediary steps were but I soon found myself talking about the promise inherent in certain projects and how it was apparent in the way a particular vision spilled over in so many different areas.
Before I knew it, I was waxing lyrical about Cardano and the CNFT community and suddenly she interrupted me by declaring: “what you are describing is proof of kindness”! And of course this discerning Buddhist practitioner was on the money.
Like most thoughtful folks, I’ve struggled as an artist between the need to make a living, quite unapologetically, and the desire to share spontaneous creative expressions of gleeful gratitude with the many beautiful people who have inspired me, been kind to me or otherwise simply made me smile.
The two are not mutually exclusive. We can very much be marketplace participants and be generous. Anyone who has opened their NFT wallet to discover an unexpected airdrop understands this! I’m tempted to say that the world of NFTs is also nondual, like the very nature of reality itself.
Recently I wrote that the world was rigged for beauty and for love (and received several beautiful comments and notes confirming that I was not alone in experiencing the world in this way). The CNFT community has shown me that this also applies to kindness. I for one want to celebrate kindness within the very marketplace where we come together to share and transact, and also simply to be seen in all our creative humanity.
I am deeply grateful for this marketplace. We all need to feed our families. This is a hardwired evolutionary fact. And–I also see each and everyone of you as a sovereign, stand alone, inherently non-commercial, creative being.
You know who you are, IYKYK.
Thank you so much for reading, if you’ve read through to the very end, you are AMAZING! As is now customary, if you RT this article and drop me a line commenting on the substance or the form of this article, you will be eligible to win a CNFT…
Winners of the giveaway in connection with the articles dated October 6th and October 10th will be announced no later than on October 15th, 2021 (keeping time zone discrepancies in mind).