Beauty as product? – What happens when our subjective perceptions of natural beauty are confronted with the plastic surgeon’s scientific, geometry-based standard of beauty?
The women portrayed by Marc Erwin Babej are all in their Twenties and conform to perceptions of beauty in our current society. New York Cory plastic surgeon Dr. Maria M. LoTempio was given the assignment to do what it takes to “upgrade” these “patients” according to the standards of her profession. All “patients” were initially evaluated via a set of five clinical images and then examined in person. Finally, they were marked with pre- operative markings – the Mask of Perfection. The images in this series were taken in this state. No procedures were performed following the images.
Marc Erwin Babej and plastic surgeon Dr. Maria M. LoTempio have selected and portrayed twelve women focusing on the tension between our ideal of natural beauty and the standards of plastic surgery. For the photographer, the emerging beauty ideal of plastic surgery represents a radical shift in the understanding of beauty itself: it has become a line item on a shopping list. Whether this development is liberating or cheapens the concept of human beauty (or both at the same time) is a matter of individual judgment.
“I tried to visually superimpose the ideal of beauty surgery onto the traditional, subjective perception of beauty in order to show discrepancies and tensions between the two.” Marc Erwin Babej
The style of representation aims to prevent knee-jerk “for” or “against” reactions, and instead to inspire individual reflection. This is achieved by dual alienation effects: The markings “mar the view” of the subjects, preventing viewers from immersing themselves in their natural beauty. Meanwhile, the romantic, aestheticizing style of portraiture was chosen to bar viewers from overly identifying with the plastic surgeon. At the end we are confronted with two masks. But can we still see the beauty behind them? If so, which?