Unconventional Beauty

Editorials, Everyday Musings


The great thing about art is that it evokes emotions and everyone who looks can see a different meaning. This commenter saw this photo and  immediately felt angered because to them it depicted poverty in a way that was glorifying. For me, it was something different. I was captivated by a house that should not exist. It was built with simple materials, and has obviously survived a beating that comes from existence. By all definitions, it should have been defeated and washed away. Yet it’s still standing, revealing a complexity that goes beyond the exterior.

The structure is surrounded by lush greens and what is not shown is a river that runs alongside the neighborhood. The neighborhood is every bit a paradise, but is overlooked because of the presentation.  Unfortunately, such a paradise is one people go their whole lives without being able to see either because they are not provided the chance or are too busy to open their eyes and see it.

I really appreciate this comment because it gives me the opportunity to give my story. I am not just traveling, but am living and Costa Rica for the next year is my home. I walk the city everyday and like to take pictures of things that are real, not just touristy, and go beyond sunsets and pristine beaches.

Now I don’t know who lives here or if the home is even inhabited, but if so I imagine the persons to be just like the house- weathering the storms but still surviving. I have sat at tables and had dinners with persons in these situations, and have left inspired by dreams rooted in morals more so than than self advancement and a love that encompasses a willingness to share their all, even if it is their last. These persons understand life in a way I will never get to know, and is a value you can’t put into a currency.

Society has taught us to pity those who come from situations less ideal than our own. What I have found is the last thing people in poverty want is our pity. In fact, one guy told me that he pitied us. Why? I asked. “Because even though I work hard, when I come home I can rest because my day is finished and I don’t owe anyone anything,” he answered. Another person explained that the thing she hated least about my country is that we are never satisfied. We’re always working to get the next best thing, and will find ways to get it even if we can’t really afford it, she said. Both person’s told me they would take spending time with family over overworking for money any day, because the greed is not worth the sacrifice.

I’m not saying that people should run around taking pictures of the poor, and am equally disgusted when I see people exploiting the homeless for their own personal gain.  I am reminded of a photographer friend who went to Africa.  His mission he said was to not take pictures of people starving and unhappy, and to his surprise it was an easy thing to do, he said.  Third worlds don’t have to always be portrayed as dirty and sad, as evident by my blog.

I’m also not saying those “living the good life” should not give to those less fortunate. I believe the greatest joys in life come from giving unconditionally and unselfishly because it’s something you want to do. I also feel that when you give because you’re guilty and are trying to right a wrong in the world, the act because becomes dangerous. How so? Because you make it more about you and less about generosity.

Although everyone is not wealthy in money, a person’s life experiences gives them another type of wealth. The wealth that comes from being the other side of the coin, the side that gets less sunshine because it’s too painful for others to flip it over, should not be undervalued. Realize that everyone has a story to tell, and they always have a lesson we can learn from.

And that, my people, is what makes it an unconventional beauty.

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