Phillip Toledano: "A New Kind of Beauty" (portraits of "extreme" plastic surgery)

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Above: Tiana. More photos from Phillip Toledano's portrait series of people who have undergone "extreme plastic surgery" on the photographer's website. Toledano asks, "Is beauty informed by contemporary culture? By history? Or is it defined by the surgeon's hand? Can we identify physical trends that vary from decade to decade, or is beauty timeless?" He's on Twitter. (Thanks, Susannah Breslin, via Refinery29)

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  1. Nice series. The lighting is absolutely gorgeous. It’s got this very clinical “under the knife” kind of sensibility. Posing of each of the subjects gives a sense of vulnerability that is quite interesting.

  2. Interesting photos. A couple of them were a little scary. I’d like to hear some of the reasoning behind such “extreme” plastic surgery…from both the patient and the doctor.

  3. they all seem to have ended up with the same face, which is extremely odd. it suggests that they either all went to the same doctor, or there is an agreed-upon “best face” in plastic surgery, or there that there is some face we’d all eventually arrive at via extreme plastic surgery, if we all did it. then we’d all end up looking weird and the same. i should add that only 1 or 2 of those faces look anywhere near natural to me, but maybe that isn’t the point, right?

    1. When I was working in high-end retail, I noticed that quite a few of my female customers all had the same nose, whether it fit with their face or not. It was weird and creepy and rather put me off of the idea of plastic surgery altogether.

  4. A couple of things here: I would laugh (and have) behind the backs of these types, is it vanity? or fear of mundane? and Boingboing has inadvertently crushed his server.

  5. Since the site is as dead as a doornail right now and all I have to go on is the picture in the post, I just have to say that I’m more and more embracing my aversion to plastic surgery for anything other than medical reasons. I imagine my reaction is kind of a reverse form of uncanny valley.

    I also find that makeup is best in small doses on people I find attractive. People with big doses of either make me feel a bit uncomfortable when I’m around them.

    1. I’m with you. Not to be too pop-ish for boingboing, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why Carrie Underwood wears so damn much makeup.

    1. lol. I clicked your first link and thought, “I dunno, dude’s kinda hot.” Then I looked at the URL.

  6. I found those pictures disturbing and all those people managed to do with plastic surgery is make themselves hideous versions of their former selves. There is zero question that they live every day of their lives in complete regret and have more surgeries to undo what their doctors should be arrested for doing. None of those people looks better than they did before the surgery. They are scary looking to me.

    1. There is zero question that they live every day of their lives in complete regret and have more surgeries to undo what their doctors should be arrested for doing.

      There’s no evidence for that. People who have extreme plastic surgery probably have a clearer goal than run of the mill make-me-pretty patients. If they know how they want to look and they meet that goal, why shouldn’t they be happy with the results.

      1. “If they know how they want to look and they meet that goal …”

        One does not necessarily follow from the other. Perhaps it is because plastic surgery cannot make their self-image a total reality that they keep returning for more.

    2. It is creepy that they all have the same face, and it certainly doesn’t help that they’re lit a light that makes them look like the stepped out of Twilight, and that the men look like transexuals that underwent “feminizing” surgery. (See #9 Gina, and try to tell me that “Gina” wasn’t a “Gene.”)

  7. Not one of them is at all attractive as they look now. I wonder what they looked like before they inflated their lips (and whatever else they did).

    In fact, they mostly look like plastic dolls. If I saw those photographs without any introductory text, I would not have identified them as human; I’d’ve thought they were sculptures by an artist with a definite style and a deeply misanthropic sensibility.

  8. There’s nothing wrong with his server, BB just linked to a page that doesn’t exist. Remove the trailing slash and the link is fine.

  9. i feel really sorry for these people, not because they’re ugly or beautiful, but because the photographer did such a horrible job with the portrayal of his subjects. he seems to have gone out of his way to pick unflattering makeup and lighting.

    the message seems to be not “what is beauty, blah blah” but rather “hey look at these poor saps I duped!”

    the series is rather mean spirited that way.

    1. i feel really sorry for these people, not because they’re ugly or beautiful, but because the photographer did such a horrible job with the portrayal of his subjects.

      Don’t Google Diane Arbus.

  10. I really don’t understand the appeal of giant clown lips. But hey, someone out there must find it attractive.

    1. I see no evidence of that. Well, the individuals themselves must think it is, or at least think someone else thinks so. But the fact that they’ve made themselves so grotesque in no way, by itself, implies that anyone finds their grotesquery appealing.

  11. I found those pictures disturbing and all those people managed to do with plastic surgery is make themselves hideous versions of their former selves. There is zero question that they live every day of their lives in complete regret and have more surgeries to undo what their doctors should be arrested for doing.

    What a horribly patronizing attitude.

    Projecting much?

    How do you know they were more hideous after surgery?

    Arrest surgeons? For providing cosmetic surgery to consenting adults?

    So what, you can only have cosmetic surgery if you’re a burn victim or something?

    I have to wonder what personality quirks you must have to get so emotional over the superficial choice of strangers that you will never meet.

  12. Sure, make and wear weird clothes but don’t you dare alter your body in ways that commenters might not approve of or find attractive. I guess it is just lucky for them they only got plastic surgery and not a tattoo or things might get really nasty.

    I’m just wondering how any of this work qualifies as extreme

    1. I’m just wondering how any of this work qualifies as extreme

      We don’t know what the “before” pictures look like.

      1. LOL…while I agree, have you looked at The Lizardman’s website? If you do, you’ll see why these mods are not at all extreme from his perspective. Or from mine, really, after seeing what he’s done.

        Warning: The Lizardman’s pics are not for the faint of heart. His body mods are quite extensive, his name is apt, and I personally find them revolting. YMMV, maybe you’ll like them, to each his own, etc.

      2. True but unless they are all sex re-assignments I’d still question the extreme tag. Extreme tends to be used to describe technical difficulty and/or results going well outside the accepted norm and the claim for either seems somewhat tenuous here. The sheer number of procedures might be noteworthy or the extent of the change from former appearance (something we also cannot judge without before pictures) but it seems like most have simply had a number of more or less currently standard procedures.

        I do like that many seemed to be posed in a manner recalling historical figures that might have been their surgical inspirations, reminds me of Orlan’s project

        1. Interesting point… There are a few here that really do look like they’re dancing with gender.

          If you really want to see some “extreme” surgeries, look for facial feminization surgery pictures. Nothing like a 13 hour surgery where they cut your face off, remove bone or shave it while still attached, adjust other features then put everything back together.

          1. I’d definitely agree with that being extreme on the procedural side of things – and I know a surgically created hermaphrodite who has done voluntary amputation (among other things)

    2. *considers the source before replying*

      Yes, I would say that ‘extreme’ is not quite the word here. YOUR body mods are definitely extreme, in that you’re not trying to make yourself beautiful (at least in any conventional sense, he added hastily).

      I can actually understand you better (at least intellectually; emotionally, your body mods fill me with revulsion, as I’ve said before). These people’s motivations are mysterious to me. They appear to have been trying to make themselves attractive, and instead look like horrific plastic sculptures.

      Now, if they intended a kind of social commentary, of a “let’s make ourselves as exaggerated as possible to show how pointless it is” kind, I’d understand that (but still be repelled). But I see no evidence of that.

      As for your “don’t you dare” comment, that’s pretty childish. You can do whatever you want, but you don’t get to have both that and the reaction you want. My reaction belongs to me, not you. My reaction to your body mods is revulsion. Too bad. You have to take whatever reactions you get when you do something as extreme as what you’ve done.

      I say “childish,” because adults know that you can’t do whatever you want, be whatever you want, AND get whatever you want. At best you can have two of those, generally. People who get all three are either a) extraordinarily lucky, or b) quite modest in what they want to do, be, and/or get.

      You’ve chosen to do and be some pretty unusual and extreme things. I’m sure that gets you quite a lot of what you want (you’re certainly remarkable). But for you to complain that some of us (me, for example) express revulsion for your self-chosen appearance is absurd. Really, tough shit.

      1. My reaction to seeing other people’s reactions belongs to me, not you. My reaction to seeing commenters support appearance choices (like steampunk and unusual knitting) up to but not including those that permanently alter the body is head-shaking, shoulder shrugging, exasperation.

        I think I understand that you find my style of expression “childish” – I also think we have already covered this ground where I tell you I find that complimentary. Obviously as an adult that has not been crushed by the “real world” I understand about the problems of getting those three things as you describe but (and you will likely find this childish as well) it amuses to me to no end that you feel some pedantic need to lecture about it.

        1. My reaction to seeing other people’s reactions belongs to me, not you.

          A fair point. No argument there.

          My reaction to seeing commenters support appearance choices (like steampunk and unusual knitting) up to but not including those that permanently alter the body is head-shaking, shoulder shrugging, exasperation.

          Hmm. I infer from this (correct me if I’m wrong) that you don’t understand the difference. The very permanence of body mods is the key. If I wear bizarre clothes today, I can put on more ordinary ones tomorrow. For you to go back to looking more ordinary (and I don’t mean to imply that you would ever want to) would be expensive at the very least, and likely impossible. Many people recoil from irrevocable choices. That’s a basic element of human nature.

          Or is there something I’m not getting about your reaction to our reactions? Please explain if so.

          I think I understand that you find my style of expression “childish”

          If that’s what you think, no, you don’t understand. What I find childish is your idea that people shouldn’t react with revulsion to extreme (like yours) or merely creepy (like the ones in this post) body modifications. If you find that complimentary, you’ve still misunderstood. There’s a difference between ‘childish’ (inappropriately and objectionably in the fashion of a child) and ‘childlike’ (delightfully or enchantingly in the fashion of a child).

          You may find it desirable that I’m repulsed by your body mods. Repelling some while fascinating others may be your goal, in which case you’ve achieved it and I salute you (that, unlike ‘childish’, is a compliment).

          Oh, well, take it as a compliment if you wish. It’s entirely not intended as one. But I suppose you can’t do what you’ve done, and become what you’ve made of yourself, without taking negative reactions as positive (from your point of view).

          And I’m quite amused, in my turn, by your apparent opinion that you can tell anything about me by the fact that I’m repelled by your body mods and willing to say so. To try to explain why this is wrong would, I’m convinced, be fruitless; but here’s one hint: you’re not making that same judgment about the many, many people who have the same reaction and conceal it as best they can, while they’re actually just less forthright with you than I am. Preferring them to me is foolish at best.

          1. “Hmm. I infer from this (correct me if I’m wrong) that you don’t understand the difference. The very permanence of body mods is the key. If I wear bizarre clothes today, I can put on more ordinary ones tomorrow. For you to go back to looking more ordinary (and I don’t mean to imply that you would ever want to) would be expensive at the very least, and likely impossible.”

            I see the difference but I also view activity of this sort as being on a spectrum and find that most people seem not to understand that my choice to alter my body is very much like their choice to wear a standard blue or black suit. It isn’t their type of choice v mine, it is where we both fall on the spectrum of determining and creating our appearances. I am simply willing to more or less wear the same suit for the rest of my life after some careful deliberation and design. In terms of the personal & artistic expression the permanence is, in fact, a necessity for me.

            “Many people recoil from irrevocable choices. That’s a basic element of human nature.”

            My perspective on this is that they recoil from perceived irrevocable choices while accepting many choices that they fail to recognize as irrevocable and mistaking some choice as irrevocable that really aren’t. I also think that this is not a necessary element just a common one and that those who exhibit it are often overly fearful.

            “Or is there something I’m not getting about your reaction to our reactions? Please explain if so.”

            What really gets me about these reactions on this subject is that for me it represents people letting themselves be influenced by false limitations. They think that permanent body alterations necessarily have certain results when that is demonstrably not the case. They are letting themselves be fenced in by their own imaginations and extending those fences to others when they say or imply things like ‘no one will want you’ or ‘you’ll never get a job’ when it simply isn’t true. So, yes – it can be a bit of a trigger for me…

            “If that’s what you think, no, you don’t understand. What I find childish is your idea that people shouldn’t react with revulsion to extreme (like yours) or merely creepy (like the ones in this post) body modifications.”

            I don’t mind the honest instant ‘gut reaction’, if its not your thing then its not your thing and that is fine and dandy. It the move from there to make what amounts to a condemnation / insult – if you don’t like it, move on but don’t stop to insult those who are enjoying it.

            “You may find it desirable that I’m repulsed by your body mods. Repelling some while fascinating others may be your goal, in which case you’ve achieved it and I salute you (that, unlike ‘childish’, is a compliment).”

            I don’t mind repulsing people but I don’t generally set out to do it

            “And I’m quite amused, in my turn, by your apparent opinion that you can tell anything about me by the fact that I’m repelled by your body mods and willing to say so.”

            Old saying from the world of tattooing: I can tell more about you from your reactions to my tattoos than you can tell about me from my tattoos

            It works nicely in combination with: The difference between tattooed people and non-tattooed people is that tattooed people don’t care if you have tattoos or not

            “To try to explain why this is wrong would, I’m convinced, be fruitless; but here’s one hint: you’re not making that same judgment about the many, many people who have the same reaction and conceal it as best they can, while they’re actually just less forthright with you than I am. Preferring them to me is foolish at best.”

            OK then call me foolish, but if the only thing someone has to offer is that they find me unattractive they can keep their mouth shut.

            You are right that we agree that extreme and ugly should not be used as synonyms

    3. I’m just wondering how any of this work qualifies as extreme

      They wouldn’t be out of the ordinary in Southern California.

  13. Still reminds me of the surgeon from the original Bioshock. One of the first “villains” you encounter, without any limits to morality, he used his plastic surgery to perform his art. He ends up kidnapping women to use for his canvas and disposes of them when he starts failing at his own art. Terrible image to think of that one is so desensitized to use human life as a potential art form for their own personal benefit.

  14. @notnigella

    Grrrrl, you took the words right outta my fingertips. I really do wonder if they have the same Dr. Or is their some template somewhere, like a blue plate special…..

  15. I am a Facial Plastic Surgeon and I might be able to shed some light on this. First, I don’t know anything about these specific people but many patients who end up looking “transformed” have Body Dysmorphic Disorder and most of my colleagues do their best to screen those people out because surgery won’t ever make them happy. The VAST majority of patients have completely reasonable expectations and just want to look less tired or get rid of the bump on their nose. The reason that this photographic essay is interesting is because these people are the exception, not the rule. The last thing I will say is that you have probably seen lots of plastic surgery that you never noticed. That is the goal (for me anyway).

    1. Would you, as a pastic surgeon, describe these individuals as having undergone extreme plastic surgery? I’m curious what your criteria as a professional would be calling something ‘extreme’

      1. I think it is extreme in the context of plastic surgery. Certainly it is nothing compared to the transformations that you and others have made with body modifications. At least in my practice, I try to make people look better, not different. I think these people look different and that, to me, is what makes it “extreme.”

        Incidentally, I have closed some gauge holes for people. They are usually a little freaked out and more nervous than most people. I find that interesting considering that they likely didn’t have anesthesia for the piercing. As an intern, the worst patient I ever had to place an IV into was covered with tattoos and piercings. After 15 minutes of him moving around so much that I couldn’t place the IV, I asked him in exasperation how this was so much more difficult than all the other needles he’d had poked in his skin. I was surprised that this didn’t shock him to his senses. Instead, he had the perfect answer. “But I wanted these.”

        1. “At least in my practice, I try to make people look better, not different.”

          You seem to say that better and different are opposites – can one not look different and better?

          “Incidentally, I have closed some gauge holes for people. They are usually a little freaked out and more nervous than most people. I find that interesting considering that they likely didn’t have anesthesia for the piercing.”

          I can tell you from experience and you should probably know just from a mechanical standpoint that a split second piercing and the process of closing stretched piercings (sutures, etc) is far different

          “As an intern, the worst patient I ever had to place an IV into was covered with tattoos and piercings. After 15 minutes of him moving around so much that I couldn’t place the IV, I asked him in exasperation how this was so much more difficult than all the other needles he’d had poked in his skin.”

          Again – look at the mechanics for a start, there is a huge difference between inserting a needle into a vein and the process of tattooing which is fast and shallow and the needles are barely even visible as opposed to looking at the big needle about to be driven deep into you. It is apples and oranges.

          “I was surprised that this didn’t shock him to his senses. Instead, he had the perfect answer. “But I wanted these.” ”

          Precisely, there is a huge difference between voluntary and involuntary actions.

          1. “At least in my practice, I try to make people look better, not different.”

            You seem to say that better and different are opposites – can one not look different and better?

            Obviously I can’t speak for Grant, but FWIW I read him a little differently. I read him as saying that his goal is to make the patient’s face look like the same face only better, rather than to make it look like a different face. I don’t get the implication that they’re opposites, only that they’re different goals.

            I think one can certainly look different AND better (I’ll certainly look both if I lose the 40 pounds I’m planning to shed), but one can have one (either one) without the other.

          2. I didn’t mean to imply that different and better were opposites. They’re just…different. One of my patients’ biggest concerns is that they still look like “them.” Usually in the movies, someone is trying to look different (undercover spy, witness protection program, etc.). So what I meant by “better” was that they still look like themselves but the best version of themselves. Many times I talk people out of doing something that would change the essence of their facial identity. The best known case of this happening inadvertently is probably Jennifer Grey and her rhinoplasty. She looked better (in my opinion) but she was also unrecognizable. So sometimes “better” and “different” are the same.

          3. That is more or less the clarification I was expecting. It is a good perspective that I am happy to hear from a professional plastic surgeon.

    2. The last thing I will say is that you have probably seen lots of plastic surgery that you never noticed. That is the goal (for me anyway).

      Hmm. This seems to be a pattern with humans as well. We deride a class of things based on what we see…which makes sense except when the excellence of the class is not to be seen. “I hate invisibility! It always looks so fake!” :-)

      So: bad plastic surgery, bad toupees, bad hair restorations, are our models for their respective categories, when in reality they’re the bottom end of their respective categories.

      An enlightening revelation.

      I once knew a guy (for gym-acquaintance values of ‘knew’) who I assumed was part East Asian. Then one day we had a conversation about surgery. I needed some surgery inside my nose to enable me to breathe better, and he said “you could have a nose job at the same time!” I commented that I didn’t see anything particularly wrong with my nose, which seemed to confuse him; he took it as a non sequitur.

      I looked at him more closely, and realized that he was not East Asian at all; he was of Eastern European descent, of the class of people who have nose jobs as a matter-of-course rite of passage (which is why he was bewildered by my saying I didn’t think I needed one). His nose had been reduced to such a huge extent that it was quite flat between his eyes, and his Eastern European features combined with it to give the impression of being East Asian.

      I still thought he was cute. But a) I would have even with his prior nose, in all likelihood, and b) I don’t think being mistaken for half Japanese was the effect he was trying for.

    3. Grant jumped in before me :)

      It is true that many if not most of the people who request quite serious plastic surgery are in fact displaying (and probably diagnosed with) body dysmorphia.

      It is also true that most research supports the contention that much of what passes for beauty is culturally driven, even though there are common issues amongst the definitions (historically and trans-culturally) such as symmetry in facial and body features.

      Looking at just the photos, they’re very good. The composition, lighting etc are all done well and allow you to focus more on the people than any distracting features surrounding them.

      However, I find some of the people quite disturbing in that they appear to have become caricatures and in one or two instances, grotesque.

  16. Why is extreme between quotes?

    Anything that makes you less human can be described as extreme in the context of normal human appearance.

    Is beauty timeless? What an stupid question. Of course not. Look at Marylin Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor or other beauties of the 50s or 60s, nowadays they would not get a shot a a Hollywood career because they are would not be severely underweight (I have seen in person many female film stars, the pressure on them to look like emaciated starved famine survivors is unexplainable, but still they are highly sought after as icons of modern beauty).

    Lets go back even further in history, and it suffices to watch Rubens paintings, or the Venus of Milo, to know that standards of beauty change with time (and politics even).

    Heck, move country, or even locality, and the standards of beauty are entirely different (Western women, of normal appearance, are described as “fat” in many East Asian countries, and for this reason not seen as attractive, in reciprocity many Western men think East Asian women are too thin).

  17. without before pictures it’s hard to know just how much/what type of alterations were done here. This could be classed as extreme because of the amount of change, not just the style or type of change.
    Personally I don’t find these images attractive-I can’t tell how these people would look in different lighting, no make-up, etc.It must be very painful to have an inner image of yourself so much at odds with your actual appearance.

  18. General comment: One thing The Lizardman and I agree on (I think—Lizardman, please correct me if this is wrong) is that the word ‘extreme’ should not be used as a synonym for ‘ugly’. I think the individuals in this article are ugly, probably because of their plastic surgery (though as pointed out above we haven’t seen their Before shots; they may just be ugly in new ways); I wouldn’t call any of their mods extreme, except perhaps some of the lips, which are exaggerated beyond any human possibility.

    Not all ugly plastic surgery is extreme. I suppose it follows that not all extreme plastic surgery is ugly, though I’ve yet to see a counterexample. Which brings me to what I think is the key: ‘ugly’ is a personal reaction. ‘Extreme’ is, or should be IMO, a more objective statement. I’d propose, as a first cut, ‘beyond the range of natural human variation’ as a criterion for considering plastic surgery or body modification extreme.

  19. One of the biggest failing (from only my own perspective) in the search for “perfection” by an item at a time… it is easy to lose the perspective over the whole.

    I have seen some amazing plastic surgery done.. as well as the results. The problem always seems to be that the “perfect” eyes don’t necessarily blend well with the “perfect” nose or mouth. By piecemealing the work it is far too easy to overlook the totality of what is being worked on. My own opinion tends to be that the flow of the original face’s organic structure tends to be far more beautiful than the over all beauty of the “new piece” in its whole. Even if every piece is done to perfection my eye tends to see a fragmentation of hodgepodge work when considered in its entirety.

    Having said that; it isn’t my opinion that counts. It is how these individuals feel about themselves. I hope they can find the happiness they are searching for.

  20. I think Heidi Montag looks great after her surgery, and I just wanted to get that out there.

    Yes. That feels better.

  21. I do not understand why people do this. I work in a small building in lower Manhattan and there is a woman in the building who looks like this. I’m guessing she is in her late 50’s and when she gets in the elevator it seriously startles me and I just cannot look at her.

  22. There are two things I find interesting about this collection. First, the lighting, draping, posing, and photography techniques work well together to give an “artificial” look to all the subjects. They look like classic sculptures, not from marble or bronze, but from plastics and polymers. I think the artist did a great job of forcing the eye to follow dimensions of the subjects’s faces and bodies more closely. Second, I find it really interesting that all the subjects, in pursuit of beauty, have chosen augmentations that give them a listless doll look. The same look is found in many commercial images from clothing ads to children’s dolls. I wonder how much influence these images had over the subjects prior to their surgery decisions.

    I honestly believe that our concepts of beauty, beyond the appreciation of symmetrical features, are culturally driven. A consumer driven culture will invariably create a standard of beauty that most reflects the products it produces and consumes. The problem with this is that consumer culture moves rapidly, meaning that the subjects in these photos have a more fleeting grasp on beauty than most. They can literally go out of style.

    Think about that… a generation of people who have gone out of style, not just in clothes, accessories, etc.. but out of style in the physical form, more so than any generation before them. It makes me think of humanoid robots in science fiction that are pushed aside for newer, more stylish models.

  23. Beauty is as beauty does.

    If I find these examples as freakish and abnormal and people like my friends Matt Gone, Slug & Katzen beautiful I guess that’s just me. The models from the photog series startle me with their sterile artifice meanwhile Slug’s smile warms your heart. In the end I think it is all a matter of honesty, one group tries to hide while the other draws back the curtain.

  24. I recently heard this one: “Glamour is beauty without soul.” and also this one “Beauty is not a thing, it’s a basic and deep human need.” I agree with both statements.

  25. @Xopher, “beyond the range of natural human variation” is a nice definition for extreme, but I don’t think it reflects our society’s actual usage of the term where what is “normal” and “natural” aren’t necessarily the same?

  26. The lighting in those pictures gives them a little bit of the macabre, whether you think the subjects “beautiful” or not. I don’t necessarily find any of them ugly, but some do appear odd, almost “non-racial” to the point of looking quasi-alien. I wonder how their expressions change with their moods, or if they have lost some muscle control in their faces.

    The subject “Michael” is clearly doing his best “Death of Marat” by Jacques-Louis David impersonation.

  27. I noticed in another Toledano Gallery, Hope and Fear, he’s careful to note that the costumes are real- presumably he means that they exist in physical form and aren’t photoshopped.

    It’s a claim he doesn’t include in A New Kind of Beauty, so I’m not sure if I’m supposed to respond to these images as being real people having made some permanent choices, or if I’m being invited along on a ‘what if’ fantasy of the artist.

    It’s interesting art either way, but unless I see the “before’ pictures, I’d rather not invest the energy of assuming that there are actual humans who look like this.

  28. what’s weird is that barring a couple of exceptions, they all kind of look the same. it’s the puffy lips, for one thing.

    besides looking mostly horrible (IMHO), I’m struck by how similar their “new” features are. it makes them all look like relatives.

    makes me wonder if plastic surgery becomes commonplace if we’ll all just start looking alike… weird.

  29. Interesting to see this as I was, just this week, writing for a futurist project on the subject of the potential for human physical and anatomical divergence in an age of nanotechnology. I was speculating on how the cultural demassification emerging as we evolve toward a Post-Industrial super-culture might be reflected in a physical divergence of society driven by aesthetic divergence and enabled by nanotechnology that makes every aspect of the body editable and, increasingly, without the restrictions imposed by natural biophysics.

    I’ve often puzzled over the curious facial similarities resulting in people who have apparently over-used cosmetic surgery. These lion-people are an enigma. The photographer has dubbed these examples ‘extreme’ on the premise that these people have stepped over the threshold of aesthetic norms into a kind of Uncanny Valley where we no longer comprehend the standards of beauty being applied. It’s natural to wonder about the influence of the surgeon’s aesthetics and if the profession as a whole has somehow arrived at a procedural methodology that, when pushed over the limit, is doomed produces these consistently similar aberrations. One is left puzzled by the apparent aesthetic delusion between surgeon and patient alike. We suspect obsession and denial on the part of the patient, exploitation of the doctor/patient relationship on the part of the surgeon. We might also suspect some sort of class aesthetic aberration as these patients are often from the upper-class community who seem to operate in increasing cultural isolation from the rest of the society and whose consumer excesses seem paired to a deteriorating sense of taste. But is this all that’s going on?

    This photo set brings up a crucial and uncomfortable question. What do we see when we look in the mirror? Our perceptions of ourselves tend to diverge from objective reality. The anorexic is an extreme example of this. It seems that, as a peculiar side effect of self-awareness, human beings have always had some difficulty in perceiving ourselves as we actually are and have always been, to varying individual degrees, uncomfortable in our own bodies. And from the dawn of history we have been applying whatever technology was at hand to the modification of our bodies to suit cultural aesthetic ideals, for the sake of group identity, or for the sake of self-expression. For a long time this technology has been quite limited both in terms of the scope of editing of anatomy possible and in terms of its ability to do it conveniently; ie. without pain, health risk, and with reversibility. Clothing has become our dominant technology for this because it is the most convenient so far. There are few risks in experimentation beyond the casual and minor criticism of others about our tastes. But the trade-off in this convenience is in its superficiality. This is adaptation by disguise. It cannot alter basic characteristics of the body itself except where it crosses into a means of body conditioning. (corsets, foot binding, head binding, neck rings, etc.)

    Plastic surgery has opened a new doorway to increasingly radical alteration of the body. But the results being produced to date seem like the work of an amateur artist compared to that of nature. It’s as if there is a process of deconstruction of physical characteristics which like Frankenstein’s creature, lose their wholistic coherence with reconstruction. Why is plastic surgery, when applied beyond a certain degree, incapable of results as aesthetically coherent and sublime as the work of a good sculptor? Why this downward aesthetic spiral with progressive editing? Is this a technological limitation? Does the system of medical training simply produce very clumsy artists? Or is something else going on that relates to our flawed self-perception? Does the sculptor see the body in a more objective way than either the patient of surgeon are capable of? Is the incremental nature of the editing at fault? Is this like the problem of the mobile home which, owing to the nature of its construction, evolves into a hopeless mess the more one attempts to repair and renovate?

    In the future we’re going to have to confront an unprecedented power to meddle with our own physiology and anatomy with increasing convenience. And there’s no reason to expect the long trend of our compulsion to do this using whatever technology is available will reverse itself. We may be looking forward to a future society increasingly divergent in form. A civilization looking rather like the Mos Eisley Cantina where the definition of ‘human’ has little to do with the architecture of our bodies. Will we at last, with such comprehensive potential to edit to suit our ideals and fantasies, be able to each find that elusive state of comfort in our bodies, or will we become more uncomfortable than ever?

  30. i’ve been following everyone’s comments with considerable interest…to answer (or correct) a few points…the photographs are unretouched-everyone is exactly as i shot them…secondly, i never declared this to be ‘extreme’ that word just happened at some point during the thread..

    the whole point of this project was to ask questions about where we’re going as human beings (physically speaking)

    phil

  31. I would have liked a NSFW note on this post. Perhaps I should have guessed that the pictures weren’t safe for work, but notice would have prevented me from furiously trying to close the page while at work.

  32. Self-loathing and real-time eugenics, this will all end in tears (hope they didn’t remove the tear ducts).

  33. Blech. I’m sure it goes against everything I’m supposed, by politically correct standards, to think and say, but I’m not PC in any way and that’s just bizarre. Did they all go to the same surgeon, or was the inflatable tube-lips look miraculously arrived at independently?

  34. ~happy sigh~ Wow, an intelligent reasonable conversation between self-aware intellectuals able to remain civil and respectful of the differing opinions.

    My day has been made. Thank you.

  35. KLOMPCHING GALLERY is pleased to present “A New Kind Of Beauty”, by the artist Phillip Toledano. Brought together for the first time as a solo exhibition, these large-scale provocative portraits will be shown September 9 — October 29, 2010.

    An artist reception will open the exhibition on Wednesday, 8th September, 6pm—8pm.

    KLOMPCHING GALLERY is located in the Dumbo district of Brooklyn, New York City. For further information please visit our website: http://www.klompching.com

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