Genie Kausto self-portrait

This Artist Uses Self-Portraiture to Rethink What Beauty Can Be

Photographer Genie Kausto shares colorful new work that takes inspiration “from the wrong places” and embraces stupidity.
March 9, 2020, 12:01pm

This article appears in VICE Magazine's Stupid Issue, which is dedicated to the entertaining, goofy, and just plain dumb. It features stories celebrating ridiculous ideas, trends, and products; pieces arguing that unabashed stupidity can be a great part of life; and articles calling out the bad side of stupidity. Click HERE to subscribe to the print edition.

My work is a reaction to the mundane, sterilized, refined, and proper photographs that can be seen throughout most fashion magazines, beauty editorials, and marketing media. I’m driven by a frivolous and feral aim to rethink what “beauty” means. It’s a queer thing, obviously, to question or ignore the standards of beauty assigned to us. But it’s also a stupid thing, because I want to reject ideas that are thought-through, planned, restrained. I like to make work that is playful, that takes inspiration from the wrong places. To embrace stupidity is to refuse to conform to a particular type of professionalism, propriety, and pleasantness. I want it to look a bit wrong. Embracing wrongness is a way of ignoring life’s constant pressures to be right—I think that’s the appeal of the photographs in this series; that kind of debauched abandon.

We often overthink how we look and how we dress. I want to present a world where these things matter less, where we can be more stupid about how we appear and enjoy it. If I think, I end up censoring myself, but if I think less, and if I embrace stupidity, then the pictures come out better.