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A Modern Mona Lisa

A dear friend of mine over the last few years has taken up the art of photography and she’s gotten quite good. Forget good, excellent.

Her street photographs reflecting life and people all over New York city is soulful, honest, beautiful, strong, vibrant and full of life. (This is her blog http://streetstories.tumblr.com/)

The people she chooses to photograph are very different. Some are stereotypically beautiful (dancers, models), while others– their beauty, their magic, their swagger creeps up on you as you look at them longer and longer.

In New York, you see interesting people all the time, and sometimes if you are stuck on a train or in a line someplace you do want to just stare at them, but you know it’s rude. My friend’s photos allows you to take a nice, long look and think, without the icky, invasive, judgemental, gawker vibe.

They are children playing without a care in the brutal Brooklyn summer heat, they are soccer moms sitting in a park wearing hijab watching their children play.

They are tough, tatted-up guys with soft eyes.

A girl who is reluctant to smile at first, beams with confidence after a few clicks.

My friend has made these people comfortable and confident and they allow her to capture and freeze them in a moment in their dizzying, fast-paced, NY lives.

I’d love to see these people enlarged and looking down on folks from gallery walls someday. I’ve loved watching her grow as an artist and see her continuously improve.

This weekend, I was blessed to sit for a few photos with her. She sent me a few of the edited photos and I’m blown away.

I’m not being narcissistic, but I can’t stop looking.

It’s not because I think I’m so gorgeous, (I’m aaaight), but I’m studying my expressions, my eyes, what my body language is saying.

It’s so much fun to see her other work and make guesses about the people and their lives, what they’ve experienced or the irony in their personal style juxtaposed against something as simple, yet telling as a wiry smile, or a defiant stare directly in the camera which may be saying something else. A glimmer of something deep below the surface.

But for me, I know my story.

However, looking at the photos, I kept feeling blank. I thought I knew everything about me. I felt like I was seeing myself for the first time.

What was I showing?

In one photo, my eyes looked soft and it reminded me of the pain I felt from time-to-time. But even in that photo, I looked far from a victim, but I did look vulnerable.

In other photos, I looked really confident, like I could take on the world.

In another, one of my favorites, my eyes were closed and my smile was relaxed and showing off my signature gap.

These photos are among my favorite gifts this week and I will treasure this always. What I will treasure most about this gift is the ability to look at myself, and still be surprised, and still be able to question what it is I see and learn from it.

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