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What is Beauty?

Ashleigh Bernstein N0425700 FASH 20031

Contents Page Page 3 - Miuccia Prada ‘Ugliness is attractive’ Page 4 - Development stage 1, Head and Shoulder Images Page 5 - Plastic Surgery Statistics Page 6 - Dove Real Beauty Page 7 - Rankin and Marie Banier Influences Page 8 - M/M paris Influences Page 9 - Development Stage 2, Collage Images Page 10 - Post Prodution using Illustrator and Photoshop Page 11 - Final Images and Conclusion Page 12 - References Page 13 - Image References Page 14 - Bibliography Page 15 - Bibliography Page 16 - Appendix (Consent Forms) Page 17 - Appendix (Focus Group) Page 18 - Appendix (Focus Group)



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uring a recent interview in August with Telegraphs Stella Magazine, Miuccia claimed, ’Ugliness is attractive, ugliness is exciting. Maybe its because it is the newer,’ she said. Drawing from this quote I was excited with the prospect of looking at artists that observe beauty in an abstract formation for example, Miuccia, who also claimed ‘ugly is the new beautiful’.[1]

As a group we harmoniously decided to complete a set of images that conveyed more than exterior beauty. We wanted to exhibit a selection of photographs that illustrated one’s personal reflection of beauty and additionally explored our own perceptions, rather than society’s limited view on what beauty really is. We decided to take simple head and shoulder shots of various models, as well as ourselves, and additionally, allow them to adjust their photograph with the use of mix media, such as paint, pens and magazine cut outs. Ultimately, this would allow us to see people’s perceptions of beauty as well as their own insecurities. 3


urthermore, we wanted to exhibit a selection of photographs that illustrated one’s personal reflection of beauty and additionally explored our own perceptions, rather than society’s limited view on what beauty really is.

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e decided to take simple head and shoulder shots of various models, as well as ourselves, and additionally, allow them to adjust their photograph with the use of mix media, such as paint, pens and magazine cut outs. Ultimately, this would allow us to see people’s perceptions of beauty as well as their own insecurities. The lighting was kept the same which produced a clean sequence of images.

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AS A GROUP PRODUCING IMAGES THAT CONCENTRATED ON SELF-ESTEEM AND SELF-ACCEPTANCE WAS SOMETHING WE WERE ALL INTERESTED IN CREATING.... Statistics have shown that over the years, self-esteem has become a critical issue, especially amongst teenagers. Watching the documentary, ‘Am I Normal?’ highlighted problems young adults are faced with today in terms of body image and the growing obsession with looking ‘perfect’. According to American Society of Plastic Surgery statistics, 35,000 rhinoplasty (nose reshaping) procedures were performed on patients’ aged 13-19 in 2010 [2]. This has increased by 50% in comparison to 2000, which is an extremely worrying statistic. ‘Surgery changes one forever, the mind as well as the body’; this emphasizes the power of surgery and the effects it has on the individual as a hole.’ [3]




ompleting an array of images that exentuated beauty and allowed inviduals to accept their physical appearance was extremely important as the increasing obsession with changings one’s appearance alarmed me. Studying Dove’s aims and values assured me that companies are aiming to improve self-esteem within today’s society. ‘At Dove, our vision is of a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety. So we are on a mission to help the next generation of women develop a positive relationship with the way they look’ [4]. Dove was a fundamental influence when researching selfesteem amongst individuals within today’s society.

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The video ‘Dove Real Beauty Sketches’ was produced in 2013 as part of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty (Figure 7). The predominant aim of the film was to illustrate how most woman perceive themselves in a negative light. The women were expected to describe themselves to a forensic artist who could not see them. The process was repeated but with the use of a description from another female. The second image was more accurate and flattering, which states how the female illustrated a negative depiction of herself. (Figure 6 ) Furthermore, Dove have stated that only 4% of woman around the world would consider themselves beautiful and an additional 11% would describe themselves as attractive [5]. Again, this emphasizes the increasing low self-esteem many females have.

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ur predominant inspiration was drawn from Rankin’s selfdestructive portraits. In 2009 the UK’s largest music charity, Youth Music, collaborated with a project called ‘Destroy Rankin’, whereby famous musicians were photographed by Rankin and then they were asked to destroy the portrait taken by the famous artist (Figure 10). Similarly, in 2007 Diane Von Furstenberg decided to resign from being the face of her fashion brand and adopted the French photographer FrancoisMarie Banier to complete a selection of images alongside the service of model, Natalia Vodianova [6]. A collection of images was constructed with the use of mixed media, such as paint and text. Aesthetically they looked exciting and vibrant, which justified our decision to use several mediums to create our collages. (Figure 11)

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imilarly, after collaborating our research, it was evident, there was a specific theme of selfidentification and self-expression. ID was the chosen publication for our images to be placed within. Many similarities have been drawn between ID magazine and a selection of artists that have been a crucial influence amongst our imagery. M and M Paris was established in 1992 and is a graphic design partnership involving Mathias Augustyniak and Michael Amzalag .

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To mark ID’s silver anniversary in 2005 an exhibition on identity was created inviting several collaborators, which included M/M Paris. Additionally, their work has been included within ID magazine, labeled ‘The Feminine Issue 2005’, which influenced our aesthetic, including graphic imagery amongst a self-portrait. This, therefore, certified our decision of selecting ID as our chosen publication to feature our photography in.


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We encouraged the models to produce a collage on top of their photograph, representing their emotions towards their physical appearance within the image. Similarly, we carried out the same process with our own photograph. Observing an image of myself is something I had never done before, which gave me an opportunity to critique my face and additionally to disguise my flaws. However, our primary aim was to help the models accept their flaws and to express their beauty as opposed to disguising it. Whilst completing the task, it was evident that the majority of the models used this process to hide aspects of their face that they disliked. Furthermore, during the workshop low self-esteem Figure 16 amongst the majority of the individuals taking part was evident. One of the female models claimed ‘my photo is just going to be destroyed’, which highlights the insecurities many of the models were faced with whilst working on their photograph.

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fter post-production we were criticised for our images not looking ‘ID ready’; we were alarmed that our images were not of the professional and skilled standard of imagery displayed within ID magazine. We, therefore, chose to use our own image and to enhance them with the use of Photoshop and Illustrator, as opposed to physical materials such as paint and magazine cut-outs. This created a much more meaningful image and most certainly a more aesthetically pleasing result (Figure 18). Drawing inspiration from French photographer, Jean Francois Lepage (Figure 17), I decided to hand draw my graphic and then to scan it in via Illustrator, which enabled me to trace the image. All five images have the same filter to create a coherant sequence of images. However, our decision to display our final images in different sizes emphasized the graphics seen on each photograph.

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Y D A E R D NOT I Figure 19 10

Prior to my drawing, I started looking at what the word ‘beautiful’ meant to me. I wanted to enhance two factors; confidence and loving yourself. The ‘LOVE’ lettering across half my face exentuates this. Furthermore, by covering only half my face, I was able to represent a sense of confidence. The ‘V’ has been positioned around my eye, as I wanted to exaggerate a feature that I like the most on my face. Another group member claimed ‘in my photo I have highlighted my nose because that is something I have always hated.’ I also highlighted common features people hate about themselves, such as their lips, eyes and hair to express a sense of confidence.’ As quoted by Oscar Wilde in his essay, ‘The Soul of Man Under Socialism’, ‘Art is the most intense form of individualism that the world knows’ [7]; we therefore wanted to express individualism and create something that was unique and aesthetically different to the next. The underlying idea is based around our own definitions of beauty, as opposed to society’s varied and complex understanding.

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o conclude, after working on this project for the past few months I have come to the realization that finding individuals with a positive body image is extremely rare. Although we didn’t use the models for our final images, the process from using models to then using our own images has enabled me to research further into other people’s perception of beauty. Beauty is about inner confidence and positive energy, which evidently results in a strong self-belief, which therefore projects beauty. Being in a society where beauty is predominantly focused on physical aspects makes it hard for one to see past the asthehetic however this project has enabled me to observe inner beauty and confidence, which resulted in several personal and meaningful images.


References [1]Duffin,C. Miuccia Prada Head of Luxury Speaks of Fascination with Ugliness [Internet] Cited 15th November. Available from: [2]Unknown, Surgery and Statistics. [Internet] Cited 14 November 2013. Available from [3]Wolf, N. The Beauty Myth 1st ed; Harper Collins 1991 p257 [4]Unknown, The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty [Internet] Cited 19th November 2013. Available from: social-mission/campaign-for-real-beauty.aspx [5]Unknown, Dove Beauty Statistics [Internet] Cited 23rd November 2013. Available from: statistics-women [6] Barnard, C. Diana von Furstenberg Pairs Up With Natalia Vodianova and Francois-Marie Banier [Internet] Cited 19th November 2013. Available from diane-von-furstenberg-pairs-up-with-natalia-vodianova-and-francoismarie-banier [7]Wilde, O. The Soul Of Man Under Socialism 1891


Image References Figure 1 - ‘Miuccia Prada portrait’ At: Figure 2, 3, 4 & 5- Own Imagery ‘Head and Shoulder Shots’ 2013 Figure 6 - ‘Real Beauty Dove Sketches’ At: Figure 7- ‘Sometimes It Takes a Stranger to Open Your Eyes To Your Own Beauty’ At: Figure 8, 9 & 10 - ‘Destroy By Rankin’ At: Figure 11 - ‘DVF Francois Marie’ At: Figure 12 - ‘Balenciaga Studio M/M Paris’ At: Figure 13 - ‘M and M Paris Nude’ At: web.jpg Figure 14, 15 & 16 - Own Imagery ‘Mixed Media Collages’ 2013 Figure 17 - ‘Jean Francois Lepage’ At: Figure 18 - Own Imagery ‘Final Edited Portrait’ 2013 Figure 19 - Own Imagery ‘Collage Edited Image’ 2012 Figure 20 - ‘Final Layout’ 2013


Bibliography Books, Reports & Magazine Publications: Barson, K. 2013 45 Pounds . Viking Juvenile Publishing Brumberg, J. 1998 The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls. Vintage Publishing Crocker, J 2010 Letting Go of Self Esteem. Scientific American Minds Fenell, M. 2009 Overcoming Low Self Esteem. Robinson Publishing Mbubaegbu, C, 2013 Am I Beautiful Orback, S. 2006 Fat Is a Feminist. Arrow Publishing Hortocollis, A, 2013 City Unveils Campaign to Improve Girls Self-Esteem. New York Times Simson, I, 2013 Tatler Beauty & Cosmetic Surgery Guide Exhibitions: Bacher, L. Black Beauty 2013. Institute of Contemporary Art The Male Nude 2013. The Wallace Collection Only In England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr 2013. The Science Museum Photographs by Deyanita Singh 2013. Haywood Gallery


Bibliography Websites 9nEAEg




Focus Group/Workshop Comments- Date 4th November 2013 between 5-7:30pm After the photo shoot we organised for our models to gather at one of our houses to then edit their photo to reflect their individual beauty. They were given a table of materials ranging from magazines, glue, scissors to paint, oil pastels and permanent markers. They were each given two A4 print outs of their images to work with. We then gave them an hour to do their edit; we also took part with them. We provided them with a copy of our Pinterest for some inspiration as many of them don’t do any sort of arts course. During the hour we recorded comments they made about their images and what they thought about the notion of “What is Beauty?” Number of Participants: 8 Place : Casual setting in the living/ dining area. Dave: Cara, Cara Perfecta Melissa: Cara, What is it? Spanish? Dave: Spanish it means perfect face I wanted to go international… I don’t know what else to say… Looks radiant, it’s a good photo. HMR with a crown because I’m such a little princess. Melissa: So you think it’s a good photo then? Dave: Yeah I like it, it’s probably one of the best photos I’ve ever had taken of me. I don’t know what else to say I don’t want to let you down. There’s a pause as Dave plays around with the composition of the photograph Melissa: So do you think you’re a perfectionist? Dave: Yeah, I er.. I am quite a bit of a perfectionist and everything has to be done right and it annoys me if I’m doing my hair and like one piece of hair is out of place and everyone I like ahh it looks fine but no it don’t. Girls are that picky I think we’re aloud to be that picky Melissa: Do you think girls and guys are quite similar now, in terms of beauty? Dave: Yeah I think like in modern times guys care about their appearance as much as girls do and I think it’s important you should make an effort like not only for the other sex but like for yourself, makes you feel good about yourself. * Dave pauses* It’s like making yourself the best you can possibly be. At this point Dave is still fiddling with the composition of the image. Melissa: So you haven’t stuck anything down yet, is that because you want it to look perfect? Dave: Yeah Melissa: Compositionally perfect? Dave: Yeah that’s exactly why (Long Pause) this will take me a long time until I’m happy. Anything else you want a comment on? Melissa: What is the bad for? Dave: I don’t know… Every girl likes a ‘Bad’ boy don’t they Dave pauses It’s like we have stereotypes in society now where people are obsessed with being thin and muscly and that’s the image of beauty these days there’s so many things that define beauty. Beauty is hard to define though. I can talk about everyone else’s photos if you want? Melissa: Um no, we’ve got every to comment on their own. It is interesting to see how other people have defined beauty though. Dave: See I haven’t wrote what I’d improve about myself, you should be happy with what you’ve got even though there are things I would improve without a doubt… there is so many things I would improve. But… you have to focus on what you have got rather than what you haven’t. Dave leaves to find the Pritt stick. OBSERVATIONS FROM INITIAL STAGE WORKSHOP As a group we had conversations with our models throughout the session however, we also wanted to collect some unprompted comments. Often we post rationalise why we do things, so as a group we decided to note down any interesting comments made throughout the session, without asking the models direct questions. The following are notes on quotes from the models and any observations we collected. He also kept his spare photograph back with him MATT ‘I’m not very creative so this is quite a challenge’ ‘I have a good eye and a bad eye CHLOE (Melissa’s) When she first saw the photo ‘Oh my god’ ‘Cant deal with all that white, I need some colour in my life’ CHLOE (Emily’s) ‘I look so tired 17

MATT ‘I’m not very creative so this is quite a challenge’ ‘I have a good eye and a bad eye CHLOE (Melissa’s) When she first saw the photo ‘Oh my god’ ‘Cant deal with all that white, I need some colour in my life’ CHLOE (Emily’s) ‘I look so tired’ ‘First thing is getting rid of the eyes’ MELISSA ‘My photo is just going to be destroyed’ ‘I just like colour!’ Georgia on Melissa: ‘I knew she would do something creative’ GEORGIA First saw the photo: ‘Oh god..’ ‘I think I’m going to focus on my eyes cos you guys always go on about them’ EMILY Emily immediately went for the ‘twat’ paper ‘I look like an elf!’ ‘ My face is wonky’ ‘Cross out perfect cos I’m not perfect’ On why she put food on her photo: ‘ Everyone always oes on about how much food I eat and I love my food’ PAIGE ‘My hair is static’ ‘I don’t know whether to cover my eyes, I look really sad in this photo and I don’t want to look sad’ Georgia on Paige: ‘I knew she would do something with words cos she likes things like that’



What is beauty  
What is beauty