This past weekend I saw the movie American Hustle. It was a great movie, but one small detail got me thinking about photography and the artists I've been working with lately.

Jennifer Lawrence's character sniffing her nail polish in "American Hustle"
Jennifer Lawrence's character sniffing her nail polish in "American Hustle"

The crazy wife character is kind of addicted to the smell of a particular type of Polish nail polish and talks about how she can't get enough of the scent. She describes it as being pleasant but with a hint of something rotten. In the movie, she claims that all of the signature perfumes have that same combination of beauty with a bit of disgusting. It's what hooks you.

The day after I saw this movie, I had a consulting session over Skype with a photographer who makes really beautiful images. And it was interesting, because I found myself having a conversation with her that I have been having a lot lately. I asked her to try to push past making an image that was all about beauty and get something in the photograph that feels more raw/vulnerable/awkward/uncomfortable/(insert emotion-evoking adjective here) or that has a harder edge. Give the viewer something to hold onto. Something that will make the image stick.

I told her to try to "make less pretty photographs". Not ugly photographs or images that were not her style or visual aesthetic, just less pretty ones. Give us something a little rotten.