It’s a given that standards of beauty change. Across borders, across decades, and even across neighborhoods, what one group considers attractive and desirable, another does not. Girls in some African tribes spend weeks fattening up before their weddings, to demonstrate their womanly fertility, while American girls starve themselves to fit in size 00 jeans.
It’s also a given that in many ways, we can choose our beauty. We can choose our hair color, we can choose cosmetics, we can choose clothes, body art, and countless other things that can make us look and feel attractive.
In his series “A New Kind of Beauty,” photographer Philip Toledano took portraits of people who’ve gone to extremes with surgical procedures, in a project he says is designed to question how we define what is beautiful. “When we re-make ourselves,” he asks, “Are we revealing our true character, or are we stripping away our very identity?”
The haunting portraits reveal an interesting thing about plastic surgery…the more people try to modify their bodies to achieve perfection, the more they end up looking not like better versions of themselves, but rather just like each other. Instead of creating beauty, surgery has the potential to mask it with a face that looks too much like other faces. That suggests that real beauty lies not in conformity, perfection, or adherence to a standard—maybe the key to real beauty is some element of deviation, singularity, or uniqueness.Those are qualities that can’t be purchased or replicated by a surgeon, which would suggest that beauty is the most priceless commodity in the world.
Take a look at the pictures on his site and decide for yourself—will there ever be a time when this is beautiful? Do you think it’s beautiful now?
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