You probably know, or vaguely remember at least, that I had the opportunity to attend Elizabeth Messina’s A Lovely Workshop at Sea Island a few months ago. Lovely doesn’t even begin to describe how over-the-top beautiful the whole workshop actually was: lovely surroundings at the Sea Island Resort; lovely flowers, courtesy of the lovely Amy Osaba; lovely vintages from the lovely Krista at Blue-Eyed Yonder; lovely sets and styling via the lovely Ginny Branch; lovely models Sarah and Gina and Jessica and Karen and Anna, wearing lovely dresses by Claire Pettibone; lovely makeup by lovelies Erin and Claudia; lovely art and encaustics from the lovely Leah; lovely photobooks and products from lovely friends at Velvet Raptor and Artifact Uprising; lovely fellow photographers and attendees; and of course lovely inspiration, photographs, and teaching from the ever-lovely Elizabeth herself. I could go on and on and on about all-the-lovely. It bordered on unbelievable/ridiculous. Seriously.
The truth of the matter, however, is that I usually prefer a little gritty-in-my-pretty. I like taking pictures of my dirty windows and the kiddos and the teenage mommas and my own little ragamuffin children. I like REAL, which often tends towards messy rather than “lovely.” At one point, I might have sighed and whispered to my friend Katherine that it was just too beautiful, anyone can take a pretty picture of a gorgeous girl in beautiful surroundings, styled and lighted to perfection right?
My question, I suppose, was why it all really mattered. In light of children going hungry, and girls having babies at fourteen, and my boys ending up to prison for stealing and selling drugs . . . I couldn’t stop the slightly annoying and persistent voices breeding cynicism and self-righteousness and whispering sinisterly in my ear/heart. On a scale of importance and goodness, I thought to myself, caring for our neighborhood and mentoring kiddos surely ranks far above taking pictures of pretty weddings that end up published in Martha Stewart magazine.
And so I take pictures, and we look for beauty, and we remind ourselves that perhaps the greatest gift of all is this ability to find beauty in unexpected places. The kind of beauty that begs us to create and points us to the creator. And perhaps even allows me to open my eyes, however briefly, to my own lovely beauty. Because I think that this gift, above all, could change the world: offering each and every person the chance to revel in grace and throw hierarchy out the window. Giving a glimpse at her own belovedness, her own loveliness, and the beauty that lies within.
So create. Find art. Capture loveliness. For the beauty you offer the world is a gift, and might just begin a revolution towards the good and light and lovely that can be found even in the broken. Even in places you're not sure it exists. Because that is the kind of gift that can change people. For real.
(these last three pictures taken by the-one-and-only-Elizabeth-Messina. All other pictures are mine taken at the workshop).