This week I am featuring a selection of Critical Mass portfolios that were stand-outs in my very subjective opinion. There are numerous others that have already been featured on Lenscratch.
Let me just start by saying Phillip Toledano can do no wrong. Everything he sets out to accomplish, he does with a level of excellence that few can achieve. And he explores a wide gambit of subjects, from extremely personal, with Days with My Father, to extremely political, with America, The Gift Shop. His work is not only technically excellent, but it's also saying something. Truthfully, I was surprised to find his work in the Critical Mass submissions, and when I first saw the thumbnails, I thought it was a collection of digitally manipulated images. But seeing the images larger, I immediately recognized that these were portraits of people that were, indeed, manipulated, but by their own desire to attain a personal concept of beauty. Again, Phillip handles this project, A New Kind of Beauty, with sensitivity, portraying each sitter with dignity, allowing us to be horrified, fascinated, and ultimately sympathetic and saddened by their quest for perfection.
This is a series of portraits of people who've re-created themselves through plastic surgery. 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? Alternatively, are we creating a new kind of beauty? An amalgam of surgery, art, and pop culture? And if so, are the results the vanguard of human-induced evolution? This project is intended to ask, but not answer, questions.