A sunset: 78%, a landscape: 76%, a little girl playing with a cat: 56%, a woman breast-feeding: 54%, a folk dance: 46%, a weaver at work: 39%, a famous monument: 27%, a first communion: 26%, a snake: 20%, a rope 16%, a metal frame: 15%, cabbages: 12%, a butcher’s stall: 9%… a car accident: 1%
— Pierre Bourdieu, What makes a beautiful photograph? (the numbers in brackets represent the percentage of subjects who considered that these objects could produce a beautiful photograph): From: “The Social Definition Of Photography” in: Photography, A Middle Brow Art
There is something depressing about this Bourdieu-Quote: That beauty is not much more than a set of visual clichés, enforced and perpetuated by systems of power to conserve the (visual) status quo.
But then there is also a glimmer of hope in that: Once we accept that beauty is the result of of a social negotiation and not something handed down to us by the gods and reflects who we are as much as who we want to be as a society, this also means we can change what we perceive as beautiful.
Suddenly, a picture of a woman that does not have an endangering eating disorder can be seen as beautiful, food that is real and actually carries the dirt of the earth it comes from can be seen as yummy, and the picture of two men kissing, instead of being seen as an abomination, can be seen as an extension of what love can actually mean.