When it comes to our standard of female beauty, most North Americans would think of a Barbie-like woman, with legs for days and long blonde hair to match. In various studies where children were faced with a set of dolls (one fair and one of a darker complexion) and asked which one is more beautiful, most of the time the children would point to the doll with the fair complexion. Although we all know this beauty stereotype, most of us have come to understand that humans come in all shapes, sizes and colours. We have evolved and appreciate the diverse examples of beauty before us. Although our appreciation of diversity still holds, each country has its own standard of what it considers “beautiful”.
Freelance journalist Esther Honig decided to explore this phonomemon with a photo series entitled “Before & After”. Hoing took a simple, make-up free photo of herself and sent it to 40 different photoshop experts from more than 25 different countries with the simple request to “make me beautiful”. What she got back was an array of touch ups from different countries “In the U.S. Photoshop has become a symbol of our society’s unobtainable standards for beauty. My project, Before & After, examines how these standards vary across cultures on a global level” said Honig on her website. From loud make-up to darkened skin tones and lightened eyes, her initial photo was contorted to fit each country’s ideal. “It immediately occurred to me that in this pool of workers, each individual likely had an aesthetic preference particular to their own culture,” said Honig. “If you sent, say, five of them the same image they were bound to alter it in drastically contrasting ways by influence of their cultural concept of beauty.”
This series which explores the various ways in which beauty is perceived, has produced remarkable results. Below is the un-retouched photo of Honig, followed by some of the results she has received. To learn more about Honig and her project, visit her website www.estherhonig.com.