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deep into skin

A conversation with…photographer Kári Sverriss 

Eye of the Beholder 

Why do we so often like to say 'Beauty in the eye of the beholder'? Perhaps because it serves as a reminder that while society and culture push to define physical attractiveness, it is very much a part of human nature to want to look beyond the physical, to focus on emotional characteristics, and to see beauty through a different kind of lens.  

For Icelandic photographer Kári Sverriss—whose clients include CHANEL, M.A.C., and Blue Lagoon—the question of how beauty is perceived led to his latest, and perhaps most powerful, project, ‘The Art of Being Me’—a social media campaign and photography exhibition that celebrates beauty in a new and profound way. 
 
Here, Sverriss shares the story of how this career-defining moment has been on his mind since day one. 

Tell us about the campaign ‘The Art of Being Me.’ Where did the idea come from? Why did you decide to do it? 

Eleven years ago, I did a master's degree in fashion photography at the London College of Fashion. There, our tutors always challenged us to have something to say with our work. At the time, the fashion industry revolved much around outer beauty with certain beauty standards and stereotypical fashion models. So I came up with the idea to do an exhibition about beauty and what that means to people. 
Years passed, and I developed as a photographer and matured as a human being, traveling the world for work and collaborating with many international magazines and major brands. Throughout that journey, the idea for the exhibition continued to evolve. I started to think more about what makes me happy and what makes other people happy, and how important it is to nourish the inner and the outer. I also noticed how people that are confident in themselves had more to give on set; how confidence shines through in a photo. All the while, I noticed that the ‘“beauty standards” in the industry were changing for the better.  
So the idea for this exhibition was born through this journey of mine. The good, the bad, and the difficult all helped me to come to the place where I am today. 

How did you select the models for the campaign? 

I started a social media campaign @the.artofbeingme and encouraged people on Instagram to participate in the exhibition that started online [by submitting their own photos]. We selected many of the models from the participants. We also street-cast a few people because we wanted to have a diverse group. Above all, we picked people that possessed something unique and inspired us.  

What are some of the most inspiring stories you’ve heard from the participants? 

So many inspiring stories: there were people who were proud of their scars, people who overcame trauma and found out who they were through difficulties. All the stories were unique, and all of them had something inspiring to say in their own way. What was most inspiring for me was when people mentioned that they used their experience to help others. 

Did you face any particular challenges with these portraits?

For me, it was super important to capture the real them, who they are, and get their inner glow to shine through. Some had never been photographed by a professional photographer and were more shy than others. But by talking to them individually before the shoot, I was able to get out of them what makes them happy, who they are, and what’s the art of being them. That helped everyone to become more confident in front of the camera. 
I was so lucky to also have a great team of creatives with me that believed in my vision, and they helped me to create beautiful images, which I am very proud of. Without my team, I couldn’t have done this. 

What made you decide to become a photographer? 

I have a background in fashion and worked in retail for years as a manager, buyer, and visual merchandiser. After years of working in fashion, I thought to myself, how can I challenge myself and take this passion for people and fashion further? 
So in 2005, I bought my first camera and started experimenting. For years, I did this on the side while still working in retail. In 2012 I decided to take it to the next level and applied for a course in fashion photography at the London College of Fashion, and moved to London on a leap of faith. I haven’t looked back since. The first years were difficult as I made a name for myself, but I am glad I stuck through. I have been working full-time as a photographer ever since. 

You’ve created some beautiful images for Blue Lagoon. How did this relationship start? 

Thank you. It started out a few years ago, I began working with Moss restaurant and also Lava restaurant (few people know that I also do food photography). From there, I got to know the team at the Blue Lagoon, and a couple of years later, I shot skincare campaigns for Blue Lagoon Skincare. I am very happy with the work I’ve created with the team at Blue Lagoon. I think their vision is great, and they have a clear view of their identity and that makes it easy to create great work.  

Do you use Blue Lagoon products?  

I do! My favorite product is the Silica Mud Mask , and I’ve used it for many years. My skin feels so good after using it, and my complexion looks much healthier afterward. I also use the BL+ Eye Serum , which is great for firmer skin around the eyes and diminishes dark circles. In the wintertime, I use the BL+ The Cream ; it is great for the skin when it's dry and cold outside, and it nourishes the skin and gives it a healthy glow. 

What would you say makes you feel comfortable in your own skin?

Knowing who I am and what makes me happy. Waking up every day and connecting to my inner self. Using my experiences in life to learn from them, grow, and try to improve as a human being. 
Loving others and loving myself. Giving back to life and doing something for myself every day, whether it is a skincare routine, being out in nature, going to the gym, or reading a good book. Focus on the positive things in life.