What was the trigger for your series Singular Beauty?
Before I came to photography my life was spent in the beauty business,
first as a child model and later as a make-up artist in luxury
department stores. But in my late twenties, I returned to school to
complete my college studies and I found my way into Joel Sternfeld’s
colour photography class. Joel encouraged his students to make work that
resonated with them personally, but that also had a kind of social
consciousness. Based on my past, the social issue that had most impacted
my life was America’s obsession with physical perfection, and towards
the end of my studies I began the project that would become Singular
. Making Singular Beauty
was a revelation for me: it
allowed me to reconcile the personal and the intellectual in a
two-dimensional object that was readable by others.
Most of these environments want to deliver a rather serious and
clinical façade, and at the same time emphasize their appearance in a
well-defined style. They are customized, one with a Lara Croft poster,
another with a kitschy, Moorish painted wall all in golden filaments.
You photograph waiting rooms, operating rooms, before-and-after rooms,
tools, doctor’s ‘boob books’. Did marketing infiltrate every inch of
these plastic surgery clinics? Has plastic surgery become a branch of
the entertainment industry?
Absolutely. People make judgements on appearance, whether we like to
admit it or not. And when selecting an aesthetic surgeon, it follows
that the patient evaluates their skill as a cosmetic surgeon by the
aesthetics of their office. So the spaces become a prologue to the final
outcome, in which the patient will be remodelled into an improved
design of themselves.
How did you scout them? And how were you welcomed by the people there?
In recent years all the major fashion and beauty magazines, even The New
York Times, have regularly featured articles on cosmetic surgery. I was
interested in following the journey a patient might take, so I would
look through W, Vogue, etc., find the name of a surgeon and then email
their info@dr... address. Almost everyone I contacted gave me access,
and all of the doctors were very accommodating and often quite excited
that I was shooting their office. One surgeon in California very
enthusiastically took me into the recovery room to see his patient who
was still unconscious and to see a liposuction in progress, to give me a
sense of what he did everyday.
Another ongoing series of yours, Ultraviolet Beauties, consists of black and white UV close-up portraits. Do you consider the two series as somehow complementary?
Yes, they are both part of a larger body of work – in fact, I am working
on a third chapter now. The UV portraits came out of my research for Singular Beauty
Many medi-spas and cosmetic dermatologists sell the treatment to show
you your ‘future’, and then offer you a host of treatments to prevent
that future from ever coming true. However, I am most interested in the
way the UV technology, by allowing me to see underneath a person’s skin,
questions the notion of inner versus outer beauty, and the standard of
hyper-retouched beauty we now accept as reality.
Limited edition, numbered and signed.