This is recovery? Gorgeous Women and Handsome Hunks!

I got a lesson about recovery from trauma, and about self-esteem from an unexpected place, recently. I did the photo processing and touch-ups (and layout) for one of those fundraising calendars where ladies and men pose tastefully semi-nude (like the recent firemen’s calendar for animal fundraising that hit the news, or in the movie Calendar Girls). In addition to my counseling work, I take on various media projects, and this was one of them.

One of the models had experienced rape late in life. She had a slow recovery, at first wearing unattractive clothes, and gradually working up the courage to wear clothing and makeup that she liked. The calendar was a part of her recovery.

“This Calendar, for me, has been the final step in my very long journey. It is the ultimate empowering end to the circle of pain, fear and rejection that I felt for years. I am no longer ashamed—because I now know I never did anything wrong. And if it helps just one other woman in personal crisis, then it is worth it. This Calendar helped me to grow as a woman, and perhaps my story may help someone else grow.”

Really “getting” that you did nothing wrong is an important aspect of recovery. And I don’t mean “get it” as in intellectual understanding. I mean to get it on an unconscious level—a level that you know by seeing the results of your recovery; how you actually feel in situations that had been more challenging prior to your progress.

Another one of the models had a tearful but happy awakening to her own beauty after a lifetime of self-doubt. Her mother had programmed her to think of herself as ugly. When, at the calendar launch party, her photo got powerful cheers and applause, she was stunned. Then she looked at the image and all that programming seemed to come crashing down. She brought tears to others’ eyes when she told her story.

Some women have shared a very positive view of the gender and age politics of the calendars, for example:

“You have offered older women a unique opportunity to partake in a celebration of aging. You have made being 70 the new 40! So, I thank you Chuck for promoting the right valuing of women with your art and joining my spirit in killing the old-fart value-system. What you are doing is of more cultural importance than I think you realize.”

This relates to something called memory reconsolidation. It is an important part of what makes our self-image and our loves and fears malleable—for better or worse. From that perspective, this kind of project is helping to enhance self-esteem through experiences that are interpersonal, social, and visual.

The methods I use to make pictures more effective include ways to create color harmony. This is important, because the camera is not human. It does not “see” the image the way people do. Vision is not just light on your retina, it is a complicated process of interpretation, memory, and re-interpretation. So part of my job is to make the psychology of the image harmonize with the viewer. I ask how the image would become a memory if you saw the actual scene, instead of the photo.

Without altering the features of the model, you can make images more striking and convey more of the personality of the model and atmosphere of the setting through color harmonization. Film directors use this a great deal. They bring out the noire in the film noire, or the harsh sun and dust in the old western, with such methods. For beginners, a good step is to do “color washes” in which you lay a color over the image and adjust it, experimenting, until the colors are more harmonious and convey more atmosphere.

To get your own copy, contact Chuck Smith: GorgeousWomenofBaja@gmail.com

Note: All quotes here are those that the models were willing to make public. The image is of one of the calendar models (2014).


READING

Just after I wrote this, I discovered that New York Magazine did an article and photos about models of theirs that are now older (and covers some related history and current social dynamics). And they, too, brought up the issue of empowerment.

The View from a Centerfold

Articles about the Calendar Project

An article about the project in UT San Diego:

Baja ladies make nude calendar for a cause

A Spanish-language article in Ecos de Rosarito:

Damas de Rosarito posan desnudas por una causa noble

Self-Care, Recovery

My take on memory reconsolidation in self-help, where I call the work shimmering: Reprocessing as Advanced Self-Care, and here, where I tell you how to use it: The Core Shimmering Process

Learn about Memory Reconsolidation

There's a lot of info in the article In Wikipedia

An interesting chapter for clinical professionals and scientists: Episodic Memory Reconsolidation: An Update


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Just after I wrote this, I discovered that New York Magazine did an article and photos about models of theirs that are now older (and covers some related history and current social dynamics). And they, too, brought up the issue of empowerment. The View from a Centerfold
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