The “Before & After” project was release by Esther Honig in June of 2014. In this original project, Honig asked the world to define beauty by sending an un-retouched photo of her head and shoulders to 25 countries with the simple instruction – “Make me beautiful.” The results were a peek into the idea of beauty through different cultures. Fellow journalist Priscilla Yuki Wilson followed up on Honig’s project, replicating it with her own photo, While Honig is of European descent, Wilson is biracial with a Japanese mother and an African American father. Wilson received edited photos from 18 countries. The alterations varied from lightening her skin to emphasising different aspects of her features.
|Original Photo by Che Landon.|
Below is the description of “Before & After Part Two” from Priscilla Yuki Wilson’s personal website.
The question of “what are you?” regularly influences how I experience the world. It serves as a reminder that I am living in a culture that’s still adjusting to my kind of face. Growing up my Japanese mother would often tell me to wear sunblock and to stay out of the sun to avoid getting “top dark”. Being that my father is black, this paradox always troubled me because I was clearly a product of a radical racial union. In these subtle ways I was taught that my natural self did not comply with conventional standards set forth by society, saying fairer skin is better, straighter hair is more attractive, and that skinny tastes good. For that reason I decided to carry out a reproduction of the project Before & After because I wanted to see how a face like mine would be transformed on the digital surgical table.
As in the original project I approached each photoshop aficionado with the request to “make me beautiful.” Similarly I utilised the international freelancing platform, which has allowed me to contract nearly 30 individuals from more than 25 countries.
In contrast to Honig’s results, where her face became a canvas to express more than a dozen contrasting beauty standards, I found that my face actually challenged the application of photoshop in this instance. As a biracial woman there is no standard of beauty or mild that can easily fit my face.
This photoshop experiment, like Honig’s, revealed the different views of beauty around the world, verifying that a universal concept of beauty does not exist.