For A New Kind Of Beauty, London-based photographer Phillip Toledano photographs individuals who have invested in numerous plastic surgeries. His sitters, having built their bodies in the image of some unknowable, personal ideal, are perhaps signifiers of a new dawn of physical expression. The subjects of the work, some of whom have gained national celebrity for their appearances, exude an intense eroticism, one that is alternately uncomfortable and exhilarating.
Toledano, inspired by the 16th century painter Hans Holbein, is drawn to the sculptural, highlighting the sensuous curves of the body in luscious reds, blacks, and creamy nudes. Toledano’s subjects might at first appear as if carved from marble, cold or detached in their statuesque form, but the beauty of the work lies in questioning that impulse to judge; what, after all, defines a face as warm, emotive and human? Says the photographer, “In some ways I think that the subjects of [A New Kind of Beauty] are the vanguard of human evolution. Twenty years ago tattoos and piercing were considered fringe at best, outlandish at worse. And now they’re both quite mainstream. I think that in 40 or 50 years, when plastic surgery is cheap and prevalent, what it means to look human may be very different from what it means to look human today.”
Toledano views beauty as a sort of currency; if all can afford to surgically alter the exterior self, are we no longer reliant on our genetics, and do we then begin to have a more democratic society? Or do we simply move further away from our truest individual selves? One image of a young man, his head wrapped in cloth, much resembles Jack-Louis David’s painting of French Revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat. Are these individuals, then, revolutionaries, paving the way for “a new kind of beauty?” Take a look.