These Photographs Will Challenge Everything You Think About Beauty

On Beauty, which premiers today, July 31, in New York City, isn’t your typical feel-good documentary. The film, which looks at photographer Rick Guidotti’s work shooting and empowering young adults with rare physical deformations (think albinism and extreme birthmarks), is short, for one — 30 minutes, to be exact. And unlike other documentaries that look at those outside the traditional beauty standards, this film focuses on outer beauty and aesthetics just as much as inner beauty. “F**k inner beauty!” Rick declares in the trailer for the doc. “These kids are gorgeous!”


Rick photographing Jayne, a young woman with Albinism. (Photo: On Beauty/Kartemquin Films)

Rick’s mission, as documented in the film and shown in the clip above, is to recreate Smith’s Book of Recognizable Patterns of Human Malformaiton. It’s the book all medical students read, and their first interaction with many of the diseases that Rick’s subjects face. It documents all the malformations Rick’s subjects face, but its photographs are cold, dehumanizing, and downright ugly. They highlight the deformations, at the cost of the subjects. “There’s no way people are going to see them as a person, and not a person you’re going to have something in common with,” says director Joanna Rudnick. “There’s a real danger in those images.” Rick’s goal, and the goal of On Beauty: Show how truly gorgeous these young men and women are.

Jayne and Sarah. (On Beauty/Kartemquin Films)

“I saw beautiful children celebrating life and I wanted to know them,” says Joanna. “Here are people walking around every day, and were being excluded every day. And here was Rick capturing their beauty.” In one case, a young Tanzanian woman was the victim of fear and violence, because her albinism left her looking so foreign that people thought she was a witch. She’d never felt beautiful until she posed for Rick — he captured her kind eyes and broad smile, making her see herself differently. Now she too is inspired to help others with deformations see their own beauty. “I hope people will go away seeing differently, so they don’t stare or look away with fear,” Joanna says. “You see a person.”


Tyler, diagnosed with Congenital Nevus Syndrome. (Photo: Rick Guidotti)

Rick’s certainly changed the lives of his subjects, who Joanna says have bloomed before their eyes. But it goes beyond those with disfiguring diseases — Joanna says they hope everyone can see him- or herself in a new light. “I hope people can see themselves and accept their own differences,” she says. “This is holding us back. We have an epidemic of bullying and shaming. We [don’t] want beauty to be so narrow. No one should have to walk around in life looking down. I want us to wake up.” “He’s always been about the aesthetic, he’s always about beauty. We’re not capturing the inner beauty, we’re capturing the beauty that’s already there.”

Watch an exclusive clip above, and find the trailer here.

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