BODY PERFECTION: A NEW RELIGION
British photographer Zed Nelson was travelling the world when he started noticing something strange about the faces he was photographing: they were becoming more and more alike.
Nelson then embarked on a five year project which took him to 17 countries and different cultures where he took a confronting series of photographs that capture the lengths to which humans go to alter their appearance.
As the New York Times writes, some of the processes of bodily transformation are “positively medieval.”
“Globalisation hasn’t just given us Starbucks in Beijing and shopping malls in Africa,” he said. “It is also creating an eerily homogenised look.”
Here’s the very erudite and observant Nelson writing on his website:
Beauty is a $160 billion-a-year global industry. The worldwide pursuit of body improvement has become a new religion.
We live in a society that celebrates and iconises youth, where the old, the aesthetically average and the fat seem to have been erased from the pages of our glossy magazines, advertising posters and television screens.
The promise of bodily improvement is fuelled by advertising campaigns and a commercially-driven Western media, reflecting an increasingly narrow palette of beauty. The modern Caucasian beauty ideal has been packaged and exported globally, and just as surgical operations to ‘Westernise’ oriental eyes have become increasingly popular, so the beauty standard has become increasingly prescriptive.
In Africa the use of skin-lightening and hair-straightening products is widespread. In South America women have operations that bring them eerily close to the Barbie doll ideal, and blonde-haired models grace the covers of most magazines. Anorexia is on the increase in Japan, and in China, beauty pageants, once banned as ‘spiritual pollution’, are now held across the country.
‘Westernising’ the human body has become a new form of globalisation, with ‘Beauty’ becoming a homogenous brand.
Here is a selection of the amazing images that Zed Nelson has captured on his travels, each one saying something potent and arresting about the billion dollar beauty industry.
The images are part of an exhibition called Love Me, currently on display at the Perspektivet Museum in Norway.
A plastic surgeon and his wife – Brazil.
A beauty pageant entrant… She didn’t win – United Kingdom.
Women can surgically shorten their toes, securing them with metal pins to fit more easily into stiletto heels. United States.
Face resurfacing. ““Americans spend more each year on beauty than they do on education.”
Ilizarov procedure – to lengthen legs – China.
Oxygen is administered to exhausted body building competitors in their final round of judging – United States.
Vaginal tissue removed during ‘designer vaginal rejuvenation’ surgery – United States.
Winner of the Texas State Pageant – United States.
Woman, age undisclosed at the Cosmetic Enhancement Expo, Dallas, Texas – United States.