Allison Plean's column appears Fridays in the 4 Points arts and entertainment section in the Steamboat Today. Contact her at 871-4204 or e-mail email@example.com
One of the scariest things I could imagine doing was posing nude for a photographer. So I made a Tuesday night appointment with bodyscape artist and photographer Kim Keith, and then bought a bottle of wine.
There were two questions she gave me to think about before I entered her classy and comfortable studio. The first addressed what curves of my body I like and want to be photographed. The second solicited my diffidence and the parts of my body that make me vulnerable.
She of course planned on shooting both.
"If I know someone is sensitive about their stomach, it's not going to hinder me from shooting it," Keith said. "I take my time with it and hope that they can also find beauty in the pictures of themselves."
I didn't expect the question she asked me at the end of the shoot.
Knowing how nervous I was about the experience, she asked me what convinced me to do it. Answering that question may have been harder than revealing my pale winter skin to the lens.
I'm not sure if it was the challenge of overcoming my fears or exposing my insecurities. I guess I just liked the idea of Keith finding artful ways to show me that my body is beautiful.
An unhealthy self-image is the curse of social animals in a modern society. With so many mixed messages from the media, how can we not be confused about what defines beauty?
Vogue journalist Rebecca Johnson wrote in the magazine's April issue that the average runway model dropped from a size 6 to a size 2 during the past decade.
"Then, about two or three years ago, the average size of the models seemed to slip again, from a size 2 to a size zero."
I'm 29 years old, and I have finally gotten to the point where I can look at a fashion magazine and not want to starve myself.
Keith confessed that she has never felt comfortable with her own body. That is why she started creating these images.
"The first bodyscape I ever did was of myself in art school," she said. "Other people found beauty in it, and that allowed me to find beauty in it."
Keith has found a common denominator in all the women she has photographed.
"It's about softness and a curve that could be an arm or a hip or a leg. It doesn't have to be a breast. It's prettier when it's not obvious," she said. "The common denominator is just the elegant soft curves we all have."
Keith doesn't photograph her subjects' faces because it gives them more anonymity, safety and can create a more liberating environment.
"There is such trust put in me, I don't think I could ever do it," she said. "I don't think I can trust someone that much, and I am so happy that other women can."
I posed for Keith because I have seen her bodyscapes before, and I have always been in awe of the beautiful way she interprets the subtle play between light, shadows and a woman's curves. It is also obvious when you work with her that she views her role as a photographer as an honor and a privilege.
"There's something magical that happens, or maybe I'm just a romantic about it," she said. "I'm turning their curves and body into art. It makes them feel really good and is immortalizing."
To reach Kim Keith, you can call 846-3680 or see her work at the Artists' Gallery of Steamboat