Pictorial History

Photographs of old buildings that were once busy factories, populated schools, adored homes and so much more hang on the wall. These buildings now sit abandoned, left to decay and be taken over by nature. Some of them are partially collapsed while others have been demolished since the photos were taken and now there’s nothing left but an empty lot or the looks of what used to be the foundation.

These are the Hudson Valley Ruins, a photography exhibit currently on display at the New York State Museum. (And I do recommend going to see this instillation.)

The photos are beautiful. From an artistic standpoint I loved the use of lighting, attention to detail, the textures and angles at which the pictures were taken. They capture the essence of the buildings – still beautiful with it’s boarded up doors, partially collapsed walls, broken windows, torn wallpaper, peeling paint and overall abandonment.

Each photo leads to a sense of wonder and, possibly, nostalgia. As I stood in the museum looking at these photos I found myself envisioning what they looked like in their prime – busy, bustling schools and factories, lavish homes.

Historically the photos capture a place that once was a prominent and important piece of the past. These buildings once produced goods, educated children and housed families among other things. Some of the buildings were repurposed before being abandoned while others were forgotten long ago.

I think that’s the sad thing about these places. While still beautiful in their own way, they’ve been forgotten and left to the forces of nature to destroy what once was grand. A lack of care has turned these buildings into so-called “eye sores.” I don’t believe they’re ugly sights to be seen. Instead, I think they’re interesting pieces of history. They’re meant to be preserved as best as possible so we can learn from them.

Any photograph, if we look closely enough, can be a learning tool. Every picture tells a story. They depict specifics about a person – their clothing, their personality, their inner being. Pictures capture a lifestyle. Photographs freeze the horror and/or the beauty of a moment. They’re a window to the past and hope for the future.

It’s said, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Maybe the saying is a bit cliched, but I believe there’s truth in those words. We can learn a lot from a photograph, if we’re willing to listen, look carefully with our eyes.

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You Are Beautiful

“You should feel beautiful and sexy all on your own.”

That’s what I was told.

And I’ve never forgotten it.

The truth is, or maybe it’s the sad truth, that I’ve never really thought of myself as beautiful or sexy or special in any way, as far as looks go. At least, not when I was younger. Of course I’ve always had confidence in myself and other aspects of life (and I’ve always loved my eyes), but physical appearance is, sometimes, completely different.
In a world that seems to place standards on beauty and how women and men should look, it can, at times, be difficult to feel comfortable in our own skin. We nitpick the things we dislike about ourselves. We think about the things that we believe need fixing. We hunger for the approval of others. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way, or who has felt this way. And I’m fairly certain that we’ve all, at least once in our lives, have seen someone who is a complete stranger to us and thought – “They are so much better looking then I am.” or “I wish I looked like them.”

Now that I’m older and have gained a little more perspective, I believe we’re all beautiful in our own way. That’s part of what makes us unique. And there’s many ways to be beautiful. It’s not just physical beauty, but our inner beauty and the humble confidence we carry in ourselves.

Over time I’ve realized that I am beautiful. It’s not ego or vanity. Those who know me best will tell you that I’m down-to-earth and low maintenance. No, I’ve learned to feel and see myself as beautiful in my own way. Not only that, but I have a new confidence that I didn’t have when I was younger. In the end, I’ve learned to loved myself.

It’s true – “you should feel beautiful and sexy all on your own” – and you shouldn’t need a man or a woman or the validation of a stranger or even your friends or family. Please don’t misunderstand. Of course compliments are nice (and always welcomed) and it’s wonderful to be (and feel) desired, but you should always be proud to be who you are and embrace it.

Those words still resonate with me today and I know it’s something I’ll always remember.

I only wish the person who told me this so long ago would take their own advice.

After all, we’re all beautiful in our own way.

Love

I used to think that love must be the best feeling in the world. There’s so many strong examples of it in my life – my grandparents, my parents, my cousins and even my brother and his girlfriend. Then, about a year ago, I experienced it for myself.

It was the first time I had ever fallen in love. It was the fist time I had ever found a man worth giving my heart. And it wasn’t some silly schoolgirl crush type of love. It was real. During that time, I realized that love truly is a wonderful feeling.

This past weekend I attended my cousin’s wedding. For a long time I knew they loved each other so, eventually, the news of a wedding was no surprise. After all, a wedding is a celebrating of love and the union of two people. So I watched as they exchanged their vows. I watched the way they looked at each other, the way they held each other, the way they danced with each other and the way they laughed with each other. I simply watched the way they interacted with each other.

And that’s when I understood.

While love is a wonderful feeling, it’s only one of the best emotions a person can feel. To love someone and have that person return that love must be one of the best feelings as well. To love someone, have that love returned and for two people to love each other so deeply to the point that they want to spend the rest of their lives with each other – now that also must be one of the best feelings.

I was close once, but the love I gave wasn’t reciprocated in the same way. At least, not in the end. That doesn’t mean I’m quitting on love. None of us should give up. I firmly believe that there’s someone out there for all of us. I believe that we’re all deserving of that feeling called love – to love and be loved.