Each page tells a story.
Black-and-white photos of an aging jazz musician living on the streets of San Francisco, his weathered face and wrinkled hands speak volumes.
A delightful series of oil paintings of young girls titled “Princesses and Promises.”
Glamorous pictures of a leather-clad buxom blonde.
A portrait of a woman’s hands dripping with blood holding what looks like a human heart.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Hara Allison has often discovered it in the most unlikely places. She’s showcasing what she’s found in a new magazine, Beneath Your Beautiful. Launching tomorrow, the magazine is free online and also available for print purchase.
Her journey as photographer has been winding, but it’s been a longtime passion.
“In high school, I had my own dark room,” Allison recalled.
She won many awards for photography including first in state in the Florida Scholastic Press Association display photography Student Life contest.
Serving as the editor of her school newspaper and working on the yearbook staff drew her to journalism.
“But my college journalism professor hated my writing and called me out, so I switched my major to advertising,” she said.
A survivor of childhood sexual abuse and raised by a single mother who died when Allison was 18, Allison forged her path in graphic design, leaving photography behind.
“I didn’t think I was smart enough to learn lighting,” she said.
She founded Studio H, settled in Post Falls, Idaho, and enjoys a thriving career, but three years ago her passion for photography reignited at a conference in Toronto.
“The conference was about dreamers,” she said. “I realized I was a dreamer and wanted to show others, as I had learned, that beauty was everywhere and in everyone.”
The following weekend she attended the Forever Fierce: Midlife Matters conference in Los Angeles where she met a woman who talked all weekend about how much she didn’t like the way she looked.
“At the end of the weekend, I asked her if I could take her photo to show her what I saw, how beautiful she was,” Allison recalled.
That photo spawned a series she called, “Yes, yes magic.”
“Yes, yes magic is a tattoo I have on my wrist and a line from ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’; I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic!”
Next, she shot a series of photos titled “See Me.”
Her daughter had the idea to come up with words that described who she was rather than what she looked like or what others thought she was.
Allison painted the words on her back and shot the photos. Ultimately, the series included 29 women.
“They carefully chose their words and we had intimate conversations about why they picked them,” she recalled. “I realized people shared their personal stories with me very easily, and those talks inspired my podcast ‘See Beneath Your Beautiful.’ ”
She chose the podcast title from a song by Labrinth. Her guests share stories of heartbreak and hope which inspired her to create the magazine.
“Beneath Your Beautiful is in the same vein as the podcast: I show beauty by what we go through. It’s our hurdles and imperfections that are the loveliest.”
Allison said the content of the magazine will span the gamut from heartwarming to heart-wrenching.
“This isn’t a fashion magazine filled with pretty pictures,” she said. “These are pictures that you can look at over and over – they tell a story or evoke an emotion.”
The first issue features 30 contributors with their bios included.
“I really want to promote other artists.”
In addition to fine art and photos, selections include a piece about the Hungarian revolution told in words and art by Ildiko Kalpacs, an essay by Kristi Leavitt, and poems by Travis Lawrence Naught, a writer who happens to be quadriplegic.
Beneath Your Beautiful will be released monthly. Allison hopes to find advertisers and sponsors who share her vision so she can broaden the magazine’s reach.
November’s issue includes the art of Kathleen Cavender and a story about Rick Clark, founder of Giving Backpacks.
Her mission with the magazine and the podcast is simple.
“Witnessing the hard things in life makes me appreciate the beautiful things,” she said. “Life is beautiful. There is hope. As a younger woman, I didn’t know that.”
For more information on the magazine, go to beneathyourbeautifulmag.com.
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