Occasionally we need to break something down before we can build it back up; look through it with a new lens and maybe we can see a beauty that was there all along.
“Beauty in the Breakdown” is a unique photo exhibit showcasing the beauty around us every day. The project was shot in Lansing in the fall of 2013 by photographer Jena McShane with yoga students and instructors.
The exhibit debuted with a show at Just B Yoga, a donation-based studio, in October and was featured at the Lansing City Market through December. Reprints and photo notecards from the exhibit benefit a nonprofit yoga therapy program, Free Being Yoga Network, that provides classes for the underserved population.
Lansing, situated in heart of the mitten, has a journey that mirrors many Michigan towns. We relied on the auto industry for the mainstay of business until the bottom dropped out. The city has a lot of people who work for the state government but leave after office hours. Suburban flight left the city with blighted neighborhoods and urban decay. But today we’re redefining ourselves. We are showcasing our treasures and we are supporting local people and products.
McShane joined with Just B Yoga to create a photo project that captured the energy and spirit of Lansing. It’s an artistic representation of everyday locations with everyday people doing sometimes extraordinary things.
The people in the images represent our community, with diversity of body size, shape, gender, race, and age. A single mother with two children. A human resources professional. A PhD student. A musician. A journalist and yoga instructor.
Lansing is doing what seemed impossible in the mid-2000s when the bubble burst and Michigan was projected to fall and crumble. As the nation watched and Washington bailed out the auto industry, many survived living in Ground Zero of the breakdown. Community gardens sprouted, business incubators opened, blight was torn away by removing reminders of a crumbled past to open new fields of promise.
One of the shoot locations was chosen because of its history. Three people are in yoga poses in a field at sunset. The field is the site of the former General Motors Verlinden plant off Saginaw. The poses are not feats that defy gravity or cartilage, they are just simple and full of joy.
“We are constantly expected to produce, to perform, to achieve, but yoga makes no demands for success, or failure, or measurable gains; there is only the doing, a beautiful and all too rare thing,” said Will Metz, a local musician and a yoga model in the photo exhibit. “In doing, in taking part, one is immediately part of a community. In a sense, this is also what makes Lansing shine: it is a community of people who are genuinely concerned with doing better.”
“Beauty in the Breakdown” also represents the power of our human potential. For example, one of the models received a new kidney, July 23, just about six weeks before the photo shoot.
“Yoga fosters in me the most profound beauty, to be alive, here and now,” said Roxanne Frith, a photographer who teaches at Lansing Community College. “Lansing’s beauty for me is that we’re a small-town-city, a community where if you want to be involved, you can, if you want to create arts and cultural spaces, you can, and if you want to make a difference, you can! So I do.”
If we break down the elements of our Michigan communities and rebuild them we can find new beauty, we can create new beauty, we can see things differently, and we make them our new reality.
Belinda Thurston, Contributing Writer
Belinda is the owner and founder of Just B Yoga & Tai Chi LLC, a donation-based studio in Lansing. She is also the founder and director of the Free Being Yoga Network. She’s a journalist who retired after 20 years to pursue community service and activism with yoga.