Feminine beauty is, by virtue of having no definition, controversial. Hold up an image you find exemplary and expect to get everything from murmurs of approval to charges of sexism from virtually any random sampling of people. Beauty, it seems, will always be more of a question than it is an answer.
The photographers in the upcoming photo show at the Catalog Gallery in Vancouver - opening Friday November 5th - are aware of that reality and game to explore it. Called Natural Hazards, the show features the work of three of Vancouver's most exciting photographers. Jen Osborne, Byron Dauncey and Lincoln Clarkes.
Are beauty pageant contestants beautiful or exploited? What about women in tight dresses smoking menthols and tottering around in cheap stilettos on Granville Street late any given Saturday night? Or that Texan woman in shades holding a Kalashnikov in the baking desert sun: gorgeous or trashy?
The harder I look at these photographs, the more complicated the answer becomes, the more displaced beauty becomes from the subjective boundaries within which I might wish to corral it.
Is she beautiful? Maybe the better set of questions (with a nod to Terrence Mallick) would be: where did beauty come from? How did it steal into the world?