Zed Nelson’s award-wining and profoundly affecting photographic series “Love Me” illustrates the great lengths to which men and women all over the world go in their quests for beauty (not to mention the sort of attention that tends to accompany it). Nelson takes us to China, Malaysia, Tehran, Rio, New York, and, of course, Texas. He introduces us to some of the individuals that hold themselves to these impossible (and largely Caucasian) standards of beauty as they get waxed, sculpted, bleached, and scrutinized. We meet Anthony Mascolo, a 46-year-old New Jersey man who underwent liposuction on his chin and stomach (“I’m competing with men 20 years younger than me,” he told the photographer at the time) and Kristen O’Connell, a perfectly trim 13-year-old girl photographed at a New York state weight-loss camp boasting “I’ve been here ten days and lost eight pounds so far.” Nelson takes into operating rooms around the globe, backstage at cringe-worthy beauty pageants, and inside magazines like—we kid you not—Brazil’s Plastica & Beleza (a.k.a. Plastic Surgery & Beauty).
“We have created a world in which there are enormous social, psychological and economic rewards and penalties attached to the way we look,” Nelson writes in an artist’s statement about the series. “Can any of us honestly say, ‘I don’t want to be attractive?’ Don’t we all want to be loved? But have we been brainwashed into believing that in order to be loved we need smaller noses, bigger breasts, tighter skin, longer legs, flatter stomachs and to appear ever youthful? Where does it end?”
It’s an important issue—and one that’s not going away anytime soon as models and actors remain underfed and mostly white. But perhaps we can do something on a micro level with New Year’s resolutions geared toward inner beauty and deeper intellect as opposed to toned abs and a button-like snout.
Photos: © 2010 Zed Nelson – www.ZedNelson.com