Cara Phillips – Ultraviolet Beauties
“My first body of work explored the psychological experience of the cosmetic surgeon’s office. In photographing the interiors of these places of beauty, I was able to create a visual representation of the emotions they invoked in me. While researching that project, I came across UV images of patients. Many medi-spas and dermatologists take ultraviolet photographs to show patients their ‘future’ skin. Even though there is no guarantee that this unseen damage will ever appear, beauty professionals and doctors still use these images to sell treatments to their clients and patients.
Utilizing the same UV technology, but using B&W large format film, I set up my studio on the streets of New York City and photographed whoever was willing to sit in my chair. The idea was to offer pedestrians a chance to see their possible future and reconsider the fear of flaws that pervades our society. New York is known for having photo shoots on its streets, and for being the beauty capital of the world.
But in my shoot–every person who sat for a portrait–was given their moment under the lights. The results were surprising. However not so much for what they revealed about the subject’s skin damage, but for the questions they raised about the revelatory expectation of the photographic portrait. What can a two dimensional representation really capture about a person’s interior being? And in a culture populated by artifice — retouched images, scripted reality television, and set-up documentary art photography — how do we measure the truth of a photograph?”