In this collection of stories, we take a look at the search for the so-called perfect body, whether it be through photo editing or plastic surgery. Phillip Toledano creates painterly portraits of those who have pursued “extreme” plastic surgery. Jessica Ledwich‘s sadistic photos capture the allure of “perfection.” Plus, Rankin and Esther Honig challenge beauty ideals through the use of photo editing.
“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.” – Phillip Toledano
In A New Kind Of Beauty, the London-based photographer Phillip Toledano photographs people who have invested in numerous plastic surgeries, some of whom have gained national celebrity for their appearances.
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. “In some ways, I think that the subjects are the vanguard of human evolution,” the photographer says.
“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.”
Beauty Recovery Room by Ji Yeo captures the moments directly after women had undergone plastic surgery operations. “Raw data compiled from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in 2010, confirms that South Korea is indeed the country with the world’s highest per capita rate of cosmetic plastic surgery,” Yeo writes. “It is a culture where men are judged on their financial balance sheet and women by their beauty. The male-dominated media endlessly reinforces its model of the ideal woman.”
“We are living in a world of FOMO, sadness, increased anxiety, and Snapchat dysmorphia,” Rankin explains of this series, which explores the idea of the perfect body through photo editing. “It’s time to acknowledge the damaging effects that social media has on people’s self-image. [These] images were the culmination of working with various filters and smartphone apps over two years, experimenting with what they can do and how addictive they can be.”
“As our role models become ever younger and more idealized, we are so afraid of aging that the quest for youthful preservation generates an almost pathological obsession with our bodies,” the photographer Zed Nelson says. “As we align our sense of self-worth with self-image, the psychological and emotional consequences are tortuous. The one thing we do know for certain is that our body will always, in the end, betray us.”
For her project Before & After, the Kansas City-based radio journalist Esther Honig sent a photograph of herself to Photoshop professionals around the globe with one simple request: “Make me look beautiful.” Using the freelancing website Fiverr, she heard back from 27 artists, who, informed by the nuances of their own experiences, edited her face to resemble their won version of ideal femininity.
Jessica Ledwich‘s photos series The Fanciful, Monstrous Feminine explores contemporary beauty standards and practices and the pursuit of the perfect body. Through a slew of dark, surreal scenes that reimagine the lengths we go to to alter our bodies, she paints a sadistic portraoit of modern beauty rituals.