Every day we are reminded of beauty whether it is on the television, in magazines or through advertising. We live in a world that appears to have erased the old, the fat and the average from the advertising media, as we try to recreate an image of perfection through airbrushing, photo shopping or the more extreme cosmetic surgery. But is it so extreme? More and more people are undergoing cosmetic surgery to create their idea of beauty.
Since 1997 there has been a massive increase in cosmetic procedures, the most popular being breast augmentation, liposuction, eye lid surgery and rhinoplasty. Just by looking at charted data it is clear how our world is changing and how looks are becoming more important than ever. As Philip Toledano discusses through his work ‘we are creating a new kind of beauty’ through the on-going procedures we are inflicting upon ourselves. He appears to document a point where the abnormal becomes rather normal. Are we now defining our own beauty, or are we putting it in the surgeon’s hands?
Zed Nelson, a documentary photographer, explores the power of the global beauty industry and our collective insecurity, vanity and fear of aging in his series ‘Love Me’ The book by Susan Bright and Zed Nelson states: ‘Love Me negotiates the boundaries of art and documentary, reflecting a world we have created in which there are enormous social, psychological and economic rewards and penalties attached to the way we look.’ Nelson found the people he photographed to be victims of a much larger social force as they craved approval from others. There is a promise of improvement through advertising and the beauty driven media. We have an on-going desire to look our best whether it is through fashion, makeup or hair. As we age our insecurities grow with us, but the question remains; do we truly feel better after surgery or does our lack of confidence remain? Dr Max Pemberton discusses the fact that even after surgery the patients self-doubt remains and it cannot be seen as a ‘quick fix’. From a medical health perspective there are often underlying self-esteem issues which should be addressed first.
The obsession with perfection becomes apparent when you are no longer the person you once were. People become ‘perfectly formed’ looking completely unrecognisable as their former self. Is this the result we want? It is as if we have been convinced that in order to be loved we must have flat stomachs, long legs and a symmetrical facial structure. Surely this is not the case?
After interviewing 16-19yr olds I have found many believe it is up to the individual to decide on cosmetic surgery. However just over half wouldn’t go ahead with surgery unless it was for health reasons. So are we changing our ways? Has our generation been shocked at the effects it can have? Through documentaries and photographic evidence we have captured a moment in history but will we continue with this quest for perfection?