Zed Nelson – Love Me
“Beauty is a $160 billion-a-year global industry. The worldwide pursuit of body improvement has become like a new religion.
We live in a society that celebrates and iconises youth. The promise of bodily improvement is fuelled by advertising campaigns and a commercially driven Western media, reflecting an increasingly narrow palette of beauty. The modern Caucasian beauty ideal has been packaged and exported globally, and just as surgical operations to ‘Westernise’ oriental eyes have become increasingly popular, so the beauty standard has become increasingly prescriptive. In Africa the use of skin-lightening and hair-straightening products is widespread. In South America women have operations that bring them eerily close to the Barbie doll ideal, and blonde-haired models appear on the covers of most magazines. Anorexia is on the increase in Japan, and in China beauty pageants, once banned as ‘spiritual pollution’, are now held across the country.
‘Westernising’ the human body has become a new form of globalisation, and the homogenization of appearance has made ‘Beauty’ into a crude universal brand.”
In 1920 American women were finally recognised as legitimate citizens when they were given the right to vote.
In that same year the first Miss America pageant took place.
Katie, age 9. Winner – Universal Royalty Texas State Pageant. USA.
“Kill me, but make me beautiful” – ancient iranian proverb
For more than 20 years strict social rules have required modest dress and covered hair.
Laws forbid women to publicly sing, dance, or wear make-up.
There are reportedly more nose jobs being performed in Iran than in any other country in the world.
Elham, 19, and her mother, 55.
Rhinoplasty ‘nose job’ operation – Tehran, Iran.
“Every society has notions of what one should believe, how one should behave, and how one should look like in order to avoid unpopularity. These social conventions are formulated in legal codes and religious doctrines, but also in a vast body of social judgements which we take for granted, which dictates what we wear, who we respect, how we lead our lives, and how we should look.
We refrain from questioning the status quo, because we associate what is popular with what is right.”
Alain de Botton, writer
Christopher, 22. Chest wax.
J. Sister’s salon – New York, USA
Oxygen administered to Ronnie Coleman, subsequent winner, during final round of judging. The strain of bulked muscles, intense dieting and dehydration, places high levels of strain on the heart and lungs, rendering many contestants dizzy, light-headed and weak.
Ronnie Coleman, winner, Mr Olympia Competition – Las Vegas, USA.
“In a series of compelling images, Love Me negotiates the boundaries of art and documentary photography, reflecting a world we have created in which there are enormous social, psychological and economic rewards and penalties attached to the way we look.
Over a period of five years Nelson visited seventeen countries across five continents, meeting cosmetic surgeons, anorexics, beauty queens, bodybuilders, trainee models, housewives, porn stars, businessmen and soldiers.
Whilst Nelson’s subjects appear willing participants in an omnipresent culture of bodily improvement, they are also hapless victims – at the mercy of larger social forces and locked into their insatiable craving for approval.
In Love Me, Zed Nelson has produced a powerful body of work that forces each and every one of us to question our own place in a culture that compels us to constantly judge, and be judged, by our appearance.”
The book is available on Amazon.