153. Symmetry (Aesthetics 12)

Melly symmetry

Our brains are programmed to find symmetry pleasing, and one of the things that happens to a photograph of a model in a magazine is that his or her face will be photoshopped to look more symmetrical. If you make a face perfectly mapped from one side onto the other though, the outcome can be a little unnerving, and unnatural, and our brains pick up on this.

Supermodel Cindy Crawford was told she’d never make it as a model with a mole on her face. She refused to have it removed, and instead of holding back her career, it made her face instantly recognisable. Sometimes what society tells us is a flaw can be one of the very things that makes us more appealing. In Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, Oryx and Crake, the male hero bemoans the perfect bodies that are now genetically engineered, and hankers for an old lover who had “imperfections” that he knew and loved. Here is my cat’s fearful symmetry, not quite “perfect” but perfectly loveable to me. Idiosyncrasies are often pleasing to the eye and the heart, even though we might not be able to explain why.

text and photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

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