Beauty has no blueprint and photographer Ayla Reyes sought that in her college thesis that went viral on Facebook. Her work challenged beauty standards.
Reyes, a graduate of the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Fine Arts program, shared her thesis with recreations of classics like the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, earning almost 28,000 shares in five days.
"ANOMALI", her photo collection that bagged the outstanding thesis award, is a portmanteau of "anomaly" and "ano'ng mali" (what's wrong?) that is meant to spark conversation on beauty standards.
"I've always been a lover of fine arts and art history so I picked that as a theme because it's fulfilling to do a study on something close to your heart. I thought it would be a good idea to make it an advocacy as well," she told Reportr.
For the project, Reyes met with participants, learned about their personal stories, and assigned the artwork she thought fits them best. Reyes said the participants—none of which were professional models—were moved by the strong statement and concept.
"After meeting my muses, I immediately felt that they are some the strongest people I know. I consider them inspirations because they were able to rise above their insecurities and difficulties," she said.
Reyes featured 11 muses and artworks for her photoshoot, among them is cheerleader Olivia Garcia, who gave a modern interpretation to Edgar Degas' Little Dancer of Fourteen Years.
"Sometimes they feel scared of me because they think I'm not normal and they think I have a disease because of my hand and when I touch them, they think that when they wake up in the morning, they're gonna have it because I touched them and I have a disability and there's something wrong with me and my body," Garcia said in a feature video.
Isabela Lumba, who portrayed the modern Mona Lisa, said the project sends a message that outcasted individuals can do more. "Those who are outside have the more ability to change society and that's the beauty of it," she said.
Sarah Pimentel, who was paired with Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres' La Grande Odalisque, said it was refreshing to have the spotlight turned on the minorities.
"By doing this shoot, we could let people know that just because we're different, doesn't mean we're not perfect as well. We're all humans, just different."
For Reyes, the most striking element that made her post go viral was seeing how people with disabilities broke the mold of what was considered beautiful.
"Other than feeling empowered I think society should do their part to adjust to a more open-minded and inclusive perspective because inclusion matters!"