Sunday, September 12, 2010
"Paris," Phillip Toledano, All rights reserved
Though we might sometimes wish otherwise, most people go to photography shows for the subject matter. Thus, it's probably a safe bet that "A New Kind of Beauty" -- Phillip Toledano's nude and semi-nude portraits of men and women who have opted for extensive plastic surgery -- will draw big crowds at Brooklyn's Klompching Gallery. What's questionable is whether the gawkers will get what they came for.
Toledano works against his material's unmistakable tabloid tow, staging his subjects coolly in classical large-format studio-style & then toning them a homogenous golden brown against deep black. Still, the subjects' personal surgery choices -- for larger breasts, impervious to gravity; smooth, wide-cheek-boned faces; bigger, softer lips, & enlarged, sometimes slanted eyes -- seem designed mainly to enhance sexual animality. I'm guessing the subjects are sex workers (an earlier book by Toledano pictured phonesex workers). Would a wider cross-section of people who have volunteered for plastic-surgery reveal a different aesthetic?
"Steve," Phillip Toledano, All rights reserved
It's probably an answerable question. According to Wikipedia,"Nearly 12 million cosmetic procedures were performed [in the U.S.] in 2007, with the five most common surgeries being breast augmentation, liposuction, nasal surgery, eyelid surgery and abdominoplasty. The increased use of cosmetic procedures crosses racial and ethnic lines in the U.S., with increases seen among African-Americans and Hispanic Americans as well as Caucasian Americans. In Europe, the second largest market for cosmetic procedures, cosmetic surgery is a $2.2 billion business. Cosmetic surgery is now very common in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. In Asia, cosmetic surgery has become an accepted practice; currently most widely prevalent and normal in South Korean society... "
Quoted in one of the press clips on Klompching's site, Toledano imagines the trend going much further : "We're looking at a new stage of human evolution," he says. "Twenty years ago, getting your tongue pierced or having a full arm tattoo was considered outrageous, but now they're commonplace, and perhaps the same thing will happen with plastic surgery ... Perhaps we could even say a new species of human is evolving, the Homo Plasticus. "