“Could even I be photogenic?”

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I got an email today that blew my mind a little bit.

It simultaneously made me so sad and so happy.

I could talk your ear off about why I think that the idea that everyone is photogenic is important, but really this email that I got today pretty much crystalizes exactly why this project is needed.

Here’s what I received:

[the message title was “Could even I be photogenic?”]

Hello Mr. Tiziou,

I attend Broad Street Ministry and Word at Beacon church. You photographed me along with many others during the BSM birthday party 2 years ago.

In your collage below, I am [represented in it]

Yesterday Karen Rohrer sent me an email and link to your “Everyone is Photogenic” project. Watching the video really hit me hard, because I bubbled up with swaths of anxiety over all of my own personal associations with that word, “photogenic.”

I have always hated pictures of myself. There is this one passport photo I have of me from 1995 that I really like. That federal passport photographer made my blue eyes really pretty. I keep that photo close and take comfort in the fact that maybe, I might have nice eyes. But except for that one postage stamp photo, I have loathed every photograph that was ever taken of me.

When I see people out and about in Philadelphia, I think everyone is beautiful. So often people are sad looking or sometimes you see people with red eyes, crying, stuck in public unable to hide their emotions, I always want to go up to them and help them, tell them that they are beautiful. But I do not. When I see what society says is beautiful, I never find those plastic people attractive, instead I find beauty in the person who is letting her hair go grey, the person who everyone calls fat, the balding man with the kind eyes, etc. I so clearly see vibrancy and beauty in everyone. Everyone but myself.

So I am interested in your Everyone is Photogenic project and as soon as I can, I want to make a donation.

I thank you for your promo video, because it started something deep inside of myself. Right now it hurts, but I will try to be brave and work through my body hatred. If you say everyone is photogenic, then I will try to believe that. I already believe it about others, maybe it is time for me to accept it about myself.

I believe that in some form you may have contacted me after BSM about more photos. I freaked and never responded. It scared me, and I wanted to hide. That was a while ago, but if you want to photograph me, I would be willing. Everyone says such positive things about you, especially Bill Golderer, I would trust you. I would be really nervous, but I am willing to stretch myself for your projects.

Thank you for reading this lengthy out-of-nowhere email, and for receiving my words.

This is powerful, right?

If I had any doubts that this project was the right one for me to be pursuing right now, this email eradicated them.

I was really struck by how this individual ended their message… “receiving my words” – that’s what this project is about: it’s not even about making pictures, it’s about receiving human beings. Creating a safe space where all are welcomed just as they are.

If you’re not already, I hope that you’ll join as a backer. With a minimum pledge of $1, you can afford it.

If you’re curious, below’s an animation from the community photo session that this individual was photographed at… also below that is my response to them, followed by a second email from them that reveals yet another beautiful story.

My response:

Dear beautiful [name],

Thanks for your email.

And you *already are* photogenic. Each and every day.

I happen to love several of the shots of you that I took of you at BSM, but that has nothing to do with it.

You’re on the right track with what you said here.

All of those beautiful people on the streets of the city? I bet that many of them feel the same image anxieties that you do.

So if you heard one of them expressing the same feelings that are eating you up inside, what would you say to them?

I bet you would tell them how beautiful they are. How they’re perfect just the way they are.

And I’m pretty sure that they would feel loved by you, and safe with you.

So whatever you’d say to one of those beautiful people out there…

… hear it said to you.

be well, friend,

-jj

PS of course I’d be delighted for you to participate in the project once it’s up and running. You would be most welcome.

And here’s what they then shared:

Thank you so so much jj.

I really like what you are doing.

My sister [name] and I were both abused by our father. He did a lot of things, but one of the lesser things he did was to constantly criticize the way we looked. We both seem cheery and nice, but when it comes to ourselves, our self esteem, we are all freaked out inside. [name] hates her nose, says it is too big. I can not see what could possibly wrong with her nose and I think she is beautiful. She also hates seeing photos of herself. Which is a shame.

How many countless people out there walk around carrying scars of a ignorant thoughtless comment that someone said years ago? We see ourselves and think we look wrong because we don’t look like the images that are shoved at us to make us feel inadequate so we buy things.

Thank you for the message that you are bringing to people and the healing you are fostering.

At the BSM party, there was this one homeless, or at least very poor woman who had gone through your “booth” several times. She always had so much energy on a regular day, singing and being so friendly to everyone, but she was particularly overjoyed at this party. I will never forget how she cheered and pointed and made sure everyone saw her when the photo you had just taken was projected as a slide show. She was so excited to have her picture taken, and the fact that she was large on the wall of our church, that meant so much to her.

I think you are touching people’s lives and you will probably never know just how profound your creative actions are. Thank you for how you touched me with your words and your appreciation of my image today.

I just asked a friend to take a photo of me today with my phone. I have been trying to look at it, without criticism. That is because of your encouragement.

Take care and good luck,

Here it is:

In case you haven’t seen it yet, below is the project pitch. With an October 10 deadline, I don’t have much time to reach the few thousand people that it will take for this project to fly. I would welcome your help in cutting through all of the noise and raising a big beautiful army of photogenic backers. If these messages above or this video below resonate with you, please back the project and help me spread the word.

and again, the easy to remember link:

www.EveryoneIsPhotogenic.com/now