What would you think if you were photoshopped by 22 countries? I’m not talking losing-a-toe-terrible photoshop, I’m talking about having your image altered to fit into an “ideal beauty.” If you remember I wrote about journalist Esther Honig, who created the Before & After project to examine different standards of beauty from across the world. She employed a team of freelancers in different countries via Fiverr to create each image. Esther sent an untouched photograph of herself to the freelancers and simply asked that they “make her beautiful.” Of course, the results were both surprising and enlightening.
We got in touch with Esther and found out more about the interesting photoshop project:
1. What was your motivation behind the project?
I was curious to see how people in different countries would alter my image and it became a sort of independent project that I took on. I’m a freelancing reporter and a blogger so I’m used to pursuing new curiosities and developing projects around them. Before & After started out as just another endeavor. I was also interested in Photoshop as a symbol. More people have access to Photoshop everyday. Even basic alterations have become familiar and part of our visual landscape. There is growing understanding that what you are looking at online and in print has been manipulated.
2. How do you feel the ideal of beauty is changing in the new millennium?
From an anthropologic standpoint, beauty has always been linked to three things: class, race and wealth. In our generation those elements are increasingly influenced by globalization and technology. Eurocentric aesthetics, such as fair skin and light eyes, have become valued by cultures where they were not previously. Photoshop symbolizes standards of unobtainable beauty. The altered and enhanced images that it’s used to create, effect the expectations that we hold ourselves too. When we compare those standards on a global scale, achieving the ideal remains all that more elusive. It almost neutralizes the belief in a universal beauty.
3. Have you traveled to many of the countries that you depicted in your project?
No, not yet. But I certainly have plans to travel to some of these destinations, especially India. So far the only countries I’m familiar with are Chile, where I lived for five months as a Kiva fellow and Mexico (that image is not included in the final collection), where I studied for a year as a college freshman.
4. How do you feel this project can influence the beauty or modeling industry?
I’m really not one to say since I have no role in either industry besides that of the consumer. But I assume that the beauty and modeling industry is already very familiar with this concept of varying standards of beauty. High fashion and aesthetic trends often pull from foreign cultures.
To see more on Esther Honig’s Before & After project, check out her website.
(Photos: Esther Honig)