Plastic surgery has come a long way from the amazing days of its reconstructive purpose and function. There used to be a time when the procedure was reserved for either those born disfigured, or harshly maimed by a mishap. The practice is unquestionably more accessible today, and has become a multi-million dollar industry that feeds off unbridled vanity and discontent with the laws of genetic mutation. In fact, one must make the distinction between plastic, and cosmetic surgery where there are basic, fundamental differences. While the former tries to restore normalcy, the latter leeches on client-ascribed standards of beauty. Phillip Toledano’s photo series takes an intimate look into these recipients of surgical manipulation, creating faces and bodies chasing an elusive beauty ideal.
The results are ironic. Toledano explains the series called A New Kind of Beauty,
“I’m interested in what we define as beauty, when we choose to create it ourselves.Beauty has always been a currency, and now that we finally have the technological means to mint our own, what choices do we make? 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? When we re-make ourselves, are we revealing our true character, or are we stripping away our very identity? Perhaps we are creating a new kind of beauty. An amalgam of surgery, art, and popular culture? And if so, are the results the vanguard of human induced evolution?”
The series began with the task of just photographing one man who had gone under the knife for multiple procedures. This led to meeting other similar recipients of “nip tuck” surgeries as the series grew in the 2008 to 2010 period. Traditional portraiture style and its visual honesty reveal a modern day affliction.
Vanity and the pursuit of beauty in themselves are certainly not to be condemned. They have long been human pursuits and aspirations. Rather, it is a cosmetic surgery community pandering a profession at the expense of human insecurities and hopeless self-worth. These surgical mutations would never have taken place without the avarice that pervades in many medical circles.