Guest speaker to explore the experience of aesthetic perceptions


Rick Guidotti

When you hear that someone is ‘beautiful’, what comes to mind? A pretty face? Or a picture-perfect smile? It’s a subjective question, of course, and we’ve all heard the old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” — but is our perception of beauty really that unique from one person to the next?

The media has made a habit of telling us who and what is beautiful — bombarding us with images of models and celebrities with ostensibly “flawless” skin and six-pack abs, who are either glorified for their looks or attacked for not maintaining them. Ultimately, those expectations impact our perception of what beauty is, and what it should look like.

It’s a topic Plenary guest speaker, Rick Guidotti, has thought about a lot and will bring to bear when he takes the stage in New York City on Friday, Aug. 21.

As a photographer, Guidotti took his experience in the fashion world to change how beauty is portrayed in the world today. As someone who photographed many super models, including Cindy Crawford, in magazines such as Elle, People, and GQ, he got a first-hand look at how the media decides who is worth being in the public spotlight.

But one day, everything changed for Guidotti when he saw a stunning young girl with white-blond hair and porcelain skin on the streets of New York. She stood out from the crowd in a way he had never seen before because she had albinism, which Guidotti had never seen or heard of before. He immediately began researching, and was surprised to find that every image he could find on albinism did little more than exploit the disease and disparage the subject, which completely opposed the uniqueness and beauty he saw in that young girl.

That was how Guidotti got the idea to establish the advocacy organization, Positive Exposure, which works to support individuals with genetic, physical, cognitive, and behavioral differences. The program uses visual arts to celebrate the richness of human diversity by portraying these individuals as human beings, rather than as a specific diagnosis or disease entity.

He will showcase a presentation that explores the social and psychological experiences of people living with difference across ethno-cultural heritages.

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