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'La Femme…en Noir et Blanc' photography exhibit showcases natural beauty

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Photographer Henry Perez hates Photoshop and so to prove it, he is mounting a major photography show that portrays 50 women of all ages, shapes and sizes, who agreed to be photographed and have their images displayed, all without a smidgeon of retouching.

Titled "La Femme…en Noir et Blanc," the show is designed to pay tribute to the natural, unretouched beauty of women. The exhibit opens Friday, July 25, with a reception and celebration at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. It features 128 images of the women, all shot digitally in black and white.

To do this at a time when people even retouch selfies is considered daring. But Perez decided to make the statement because he so dislikes how photographers – and their models – have come to rely on such artificial crutches.

"I wanted to show the natural inner and outer beauty of these women, and also prove that they don’t have to be cover girls to be beautiful and radiant,” said Perez. “I have such an array of wonderful female friends that I thought, 'Why not depict them as they are and allow their natural beauty to shine?'"

Perez is well known as a photographer in the community. He has worked as a staff photographer for MiamiArtzine.com, EDGEMiami.com, and Wire Magazine, and his work appears frequently in the Miami Herald, Social Miami, Mark’s List and Examiner.com, to name just a few websites and publications. His previous shows have included an exploration of clouds; his work was exhibited at the "Romance in a Can" film festival in 2008 and also that year his exhibit exploring Miami’s drag queen community was showcased at the World Erotic Art Museum.

For this upcoming show he conducted photo shoots throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties, encouraging his models to select the locations and settings that best reflected their lives. "I wanted my subjects to have fun with it, while feeling they were part of the creative process and I hope this will come across to those who view the show," Perez said.

"I photographed some of the women individually, and some in pairs and groups. For instance, I shot my Brazilian friends with a soccer theme and an artist in her studio to show the creativity of her artwork. One of the women loves shoes, so I photographed her among her collection; others love their pets, so I incorporated them in their shoots," Perez said.

The exhibit includes some women who are high profile, such as former Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower and performers Nicole Henry and Maryel Epps, while others are more private, but all are portrayed strikingly, against stunning backdrops that serve to make them appear more like pieces of art than photographs.

One of the more familiar faces is that of nationally known health activist Sabrina Cohen. Cohen, who is paralyzed, is shown in her wheelchair in photographs on Lincoln Road and at the New World Symphony Park. "The show would not be a show without Sabrina. She is the most important woman that I know in my life. She is very special in my heart, and in my eyes," said Perez. A portion of the proceeds from the show will be donated to the non-profit Sabrina Cohen Foundation, which betters the quality of life for people who are paralyzed.

With one exception, all of the models in the show are very much alive and most will attend the opening reception. That exception is Marilyn Monroe, whose iconic image Perez included because, even a half-century after her death, the actress continues to symbolize female beauty. "Marilyn Monroe is the ultimate femme," he noted.

All of the 128 images will be projected onto a large screen during the reception with several 16x24 printed images on display. The images, as well as a coffee table book containing them, will be available for purchase. The opening night reception will be the only opportunity to see the entire collection. The printed photographs will remain on display until the end of the exhibit, which is Friday, August 8.

The opening reception on Friday, July 25 is from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and will also feature music, refreshments, a raffle and a silent auction. Guests are requested to wear black and/or white attire. The event is free and open to the public.

More info: Miami Beach Botanical Garden, Henry Perez Photos

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