After the application is sent, we wait. We wait to be accepted. We apply for all manner of things in life. Do we ever stop applying? Back in the day, I recall collecting the brochures on the colleges. Before the advent of the internet, it meant weekends at the local public library going through the large volumes of directories.Â I filled out applications. I wrote essays. I waited to be accepted. Where would I be accepted? Where did I fit in? Where did others think I might fit in? The excitement of being selected was unique. I rushed in the spring of 1985. Actually, I suicided. I wanted to be an AXO and nothing else. I can’t imagine the devastation had I not been selected. Looking back on it, it seemed a given. We apply for jobs. We apply for “love” when we date. We are all seeking acceptance. Acceptance is beyond validation. When someone validates they confirm I am what I say. Acceptance is to say I am welcomed as I am.
Acceptance can be based on simple things. The tallest kid will most assuredly get picked for the neighborhood pick up game. We go for an interview and the employer wants a thin, white woman under 30…period. Her appearance may be the only aspect by which she gains “acceptance”. Likewise, we may perfectly fit a prerequisite, but the lisp in our speech gets us rejected. Singular traits determine acceptability. When the singular gets us accepted, we can be fooled into thinking we are accepted in a completely and all-inclusively.
We all zoom in on the things we want to see, cropping out that which we find undesirable or incongruous. We are especially good at this with family. With blood, we pick our battles. We can look past the uncle who likes telling crude jokes at inappropriate times. We tolerate the sibling that mooches money. With friends and lovers, we have choices. In the most intimate of connections,the relations we build by choice, it is rare to have wide-angle views. It is uncommon to be fully viewed and accepted by others. Most people can desire a mind but reject a body. They can love the humor but the nicotine addiction negates. As long as the slovenliness can be dismissed or ignored, it works. We can be more selective focusing only only the parts we find attractive. Indeed, the discovery that people love components and rarely love unconditionally is sobering. The focus gets selective and refuses to see the rest of the whole entity. If but the whole elephant could be inferred by the shape and texture of its trunk. When a large part of ourselves is outside of the frame of reference how is that acceptance? It can be that the hyper focus on the tiniest part of our being is enough to feed and sustain. We can perch awkwardly, forever it seems, extending that one desirable part of ourselves into view. But I think that over time, the excluded parts forbidden or ignored require attention…or amputation. We have to decide to crop them away permanently or step into frame. As the subject, if we step ourselves into the photographer’s frame, we take the director’s seat. We take the creative direction for ourselves. Most photographers have a vision they want unperturbed, preferring their subjects still and easily manipulated. In the intimate dance, it should be a collaborative effort. The subject should have some voice in how they are perceived. Unfortunately, not all connections are so balanced. At first, the subject may feel flattered and amazed at how beautiful they can appear in the viewing lens of the photographer. We can be seduced into accepting their view as who we are. Sometimes that works. There is great risk when the elephant steps his big butt into the picture frame, if the artist wants only the agility and dexterity of the trunk known or seen. Who gets to define the elephant?