What is the real face of beauty

A wrinkled face or a beautiful life well lived.

August 3rd, 2013 by Karen Elzinga

Why do people see the aged face as ugly, when such beauty beholds every line?

Above is the image l used to represent this written document, the image is by Risquilla and is of a woman's face, the image is called sadness.

Art in its numerous forms reveals a host of cultural, social, religious and moral options. Whether visualized by positive aspects that are relative to achievement, life style, wealth, romanticism, humour, or showcasing the imperfection and negativity of the seedier under world, natural or manmade disaster, poverty and famine. The real fact is that art has the ability to transform any situation with greater meaning and intelligence, that even the macabre and most destitute scenarios can be seen by the individual eye, as bestowing beauty. This essay deals with what society believes, and is conditioned to believe, as the definition of beauty. Women are frequently portrayed in magazines, replacing the normal appearance of their model faces, with an ideal of what editors envisage perfection to be. Socrates life is explored to showcase just how creating debate between peers can alter even the most hard core perceptions of beauty, and this is put to the test with a word play scenario utilizing Socratic dialogue, to achieve a more profound viewer experience.

The image by artist photographer Risquilla, rightly named Sadness, showcases beauty in its extreme. Long gone is youth, long gone is vitality, long gone are thoughts of a better way of life. This is a woman with deep creases or wrinkles covering every inch of her face, her eyes are filled with sadness, so why does this image that beholds the image of a woman in her rustic, truest and rawest form, hold immense beauty and power.

In a Western world where beauty is defined by how many wrinkles one doesn't have on their face, it would seem impossible that Western eyes would determine this woman's portrait with anything more than pity. This is an interesting conundrum. When the image is first viewed the first thought to mind maybe repulsion, sadness, shock at the weathered and indeed leather like appearance of the woman's skin. Obvious similarities in appearance to an elephants hide are particularly evident in the light used by the photographer, however if you were to use Socrates approach to viewing this image with a method called Socratic Dialogue, you may just see a very different image (mannion, n.d).

Socrates was a Greek Philosopher born in 465 BC, his creation of the Socratic method and the practice of pedagogy, where by a teacher questions a pupil in a fashion that eventually renders a clearer and more thoughtful response, is generally considered to be his legacy. However these details can only be ascertained by reading the literary work of his student scholars, Plato, Xenophon, Aristophanes and Aristotle whom without, no record of Socrates would ever have existed, as there was no proof of Socrates ever putting pen to paper (University Press, 2008).

Socrates believed according to the writings of his student Plato, that if questions were asked of a person challenging their thoughts on a topic, that indeed logical debate could take place. Varying views could be discussed and responses elevated, disproven or dismissed based on people's ability to think for themselves, instead of how society believed they should think. This dialectic form of debate if used in the viewing of this image, could transform initial views of particularly cultures predisposed to a world free from wrinkles, from immediately observing a possible image of ugliness and vulgarity at first glance, into an image of supreme beauty after consultation and debate with peers (Mannion, n.d).

In an age where woman are bombarded with images of line free faces, of chemical procedures like Botox, chemical peels, and cosmetic and plastic surgery before and after photos on television and in magazines, and perpetuated by the celebrity culture aimed at looking 10-15 years younger than the actual age, is it any wonder people have a false sense of what beauty truly is. Western society in particular cannot even read a magazine without it being ravaged by photo shopped images of women 50 and 60 years of age, looking like they have the skin of 20 year olds. The hope of for filling the idea of beauty has become a toxic and even dangerous obsession (Beauty redefined, 2011).

Take celebrity actor Megan Fox (Transformers fame), an already glamorous and beautiful girl depicted constantly in the media as one of the most beautiful women in the world. Even with such positive coverage of her, doubts about her own self image began to rise and she allegedly caved in to the scrutiny of media pressure, altering her features surgically to invoke her idea of beauty perfection (Celebrity Plastic Surgery, n.d).

So in reflection, if already beautiful woman feel the need to enhance their attributes, how possibly can one reflect on the wrinkled face of the pictured woman reflected in the image named Sadness, and see beauty?

By using a systematic approach of Socrates dialectic form of questioning, an interviewer could ask a series of questions to the viewer about beauty. In a fictitious question and answer scenario using Socrates dialectic, an interview takes place in a gallery where the wrinkle woman's picture aptly named Sadness hangs on the wall.

Socratic dialectic: "Welcome, do you think this image is beautiful?"

Viewer. "No, l think it's awful, she is so wrinkled, she looks like a dried up old prune".

Socratic dialectic: "So what do you think beauty is then?

Viewer: "Beauty is something visually attractive, pleasant and pleasing on the
eye, something desirable, certainly not that image".

Socratic dialectic: "Do you think a well lived life is desirable or undesirable?"

Viewer: "Definitely desirable, no one wants to die early".

Socratic dialectic: "So if you think it desirable to live to a ripe old age, do you think
you will end up with wrinkles?"

Viewer: "Yes, unfortunately".

Socratic dialectic: "Do you think your wrinkles will be a reflection of your life and how
you have lived it, or are they just there to make you look old?"

Viewer: "No I think they are definitely a reflection of how you have lived your life, all
the fun times, the hard work, what you eat and drink all count l think".

Socratic dialectic: "Do you think when you're old you will look at your wrinkled face
and remember all those fun times, hard work, eating and
drinking sessions as beautiful memories of how you lived your life?"

Viewer: "Oh absolutely, l hope to have had a great life".

Socratic dialectic: "So when you look at this image do you see a woman who has had
many beautiful memories or do you just see an old woman?"

Viewer: "No, she must have had a life full of beautiful memories to have that many
lines telling her story."

Socratic dialectic: So is that how you see her, not as a wrinkled old prune but as
a woman that has lived a productive life full of beautiful
memories, some bad others good?

Viewer: "Yes its funny l never really saw wrinkles as telling my life story before, all l wanted to do was stop them appearing, but if l do then will my life story will be lost. I look at this image now and l see the true beauty of living life."(coffrin, 2012), (Phillips, 2004).

With Socrates use of dialectic debate and questioning, opinions can be greatly altered about image and whether is it seen as vulgar, strange, or abnormal to cultural beliefs and society standards. This image Sadness is a depiction of life, it does not showcase just a wrinkled woman; it exudes everything about her life, the hardships, cultural and religious beliefs, climatic and living conditions, food and vitamin availability, as well as her seniority. Every line on her face is seen as a mark of life, not of death, not of ugliness but of a road well travelled, well experienced, well lived. Socrates wisdom for questioning dictates that as long as an open mind is present thoughts can become your own individual thinking, instead of societies mass thought, therefore allowing beauty instead to be seen in the woman's reflection by a viewing audience.

In conclusion Socrates philosophy for creating rational and directional debate, could allow a person to think and act clearly based on thought provoking arguments aimed at challenging stoic and condensed thinking. By answering every dialogue with a question, forward thinking occurs, and mass thinking such as how society is conditioned to think on topics such as beauty, can be altered to focus in new and more profound ways. Beauty is only skin deep, a phrase burnt into our culture after Sir Thomas Overbury's, wrote a work in 1613 (Martin 1996-2012). Somehow those words have been lost in our conscious thought, lost in the pages of beauty magazines filled with photo shopped images, and lost in the celebrity culture of idolized perfection. Somewhere in the world that woman in the picture entitled Sadness, lives, adding more lines, more tales, more stories, more encounters, more hardships, more memories, but most importantly everyday she adds more tantalizing, profound and extraordinary beauty, to her wrinkled and withered face that beholds her life story with such exquisite delicacy.


Beauty Redefined. 2011. Photoshopping:Altering Images and Our Minds.
(accessed March12, 2012).

Coffrin, T. 2012. A Socratic Dialogue on Art and Beauty.
(accessed March 8, 2012).

Martin.G. 1996-2012. Beauty is only Skin Deep.
(accessed March 13, 2012).

Phillips, C. 2004. Six Questions of Socrates: A modern day journey of discovery through
world philosophy. Haddon Craftsmen inc: United States of America.

University press. 2008. Socrates. http://www.ancientgreece.com/s/People/Socrates/
(accessed March 8, 2012)


Olexa, P. 2010. Faces of Poverty. http://www.cruzine.com/2010/09/14/poverty-photography/
(accessed March 5, 2012).

Picture references

Celebrity Plastic Surgery, n.d. Megan Fox. Photograph.
(accessed March 7, 2012).

Risquilla. Saddness. n.d. Photograph.
(accessed March 2, 2012).


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