Beauty Brought to Light: Gulfport Artist Mel Lowe

Cathy Salustri


Beauty Brought to Light: Gulfport Artist Mel Lowe

Mel Lowe says she’d love to shoot photographs of heavier women, but so far none have approached her. Her work focuses on bringing out each woman’s beauty.

“We’re all self-conscious. Every woman I know is self-conscious, including me,” Mel Lowe says as she sits cross-legged in front of her photographs. “These were meant for themselves.”
 

Mel, a tiny blonde with curly hair and big blue eyes, says that she has one eye smaller than the other, proof that no matter how beautiful a woman, she still has something she doesn’t like about her body.
 

Enter Mel’s work. Not her vocation – that’s waiting on people at Stella’s next door to Domain, where her art hangs in the Adult Erotica section. Her work, stunning black and white photographs of women in various states of undress, reflects beauty born of insecurity.
 

“This one – we call it Redemption – she works really hard on her body and she was amazed at how these prints came out,” Mel says, indicating a seductively posed lithe woman. “Every person I’ve taken pictures of has self esteem or body issues.”
 

Mel takes pictures of weddings and pregnant women and food and babies (her photos of the food at Stella’s catapulted her into a job there), but the black and white prints in Domain are a different sort of work, using shadow and light to highlight a woman’s beauty.
 

When the Boca Ciega High graduate started taking pictures well over a decade ago, she shot on film. She gone to school to sell insurance and give massages, but never taken a photography course.
 

“It’s trial and error,” she says of her work. “I used to be in torture until I picked up my film.”
 Now she shoots with a 10-year-old digital camera, a well-loved Sony.
 

“That’s like a dream camera,” she says when talking about the Nikon D7000. She prints her work at Reedy Photo in St. Petersburg.
 

“I’m starting to use metallic paper,” she says. “It has miniscule crystals in the paper, and they pick up light. Most people won’t know the difference, but it gives it extra shabang.” She buys her frames and mats at Michael’s, using coupons from the Sunday paper.
 

“Customers just give them to me,” at work, because the regulars know about Mel’s photography. She pulls out her portfolio of work, a book of women. The ideas for each shoot start with the subjects, who approach Mel and ask her to take their photos. From there, she explains, it’s a collaborative process. Why do the women come to her?
 

“Every person I’ve taken pictures of has self-esteem or body issues,” she says. The women want the photos for themselves. Her portfolio and her work hanging in Domain’s gallery all reveal each woman’s beauty. The women, she notes, aren’t perfect, but they – as do many women – see their bodies more negatively than the rest of the world views them. She doesn’t charge as much as she probably could for a photo session, because part of the joy in her work comes from seeing the delight on her subjects’ face when they see their photos. The women who come to her come to her because Mel sees something in them that they cannot see in themselves:
 

Beauty.

Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalusti@theGabber.com.