Sep 16 2011

Beauty CULTure

Today I took a brief swim in the pool of my career origins {the world of fashion and commerce}. As I was inundated with beauty through trendy ingenues power-walking on 5 inch stilettos, the tinkling of sequins being rushed by on the way to a shoot, and the larger-than-life sized wall decor depicting smaller-than-life sized celebrity fashion icons, I was reminded of how incredibly intoxicating the culture {and the imagery that the industry produces} can be.The assault on the senses {by the 10-foot tall wall art featuring Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen, in particular} immediately transported my thoughts to the BEAUTY CULTURE exhibit at the Annenberg Center for Photography, a stunning collection of still images and multi-media pieces that explore the power that fashion and beauty photography has over us all:

Backstage at the Paul Smith Women show, London, 2002. Photo by Felicia Webb. From the exhibition “Beauty CULTure.”

“BEAUTY CULTURE provides a seminal examination of photography’s role in capturing and defining notions of modern female beauty and how these images profoundly influence our lives in both celebratory and disturbing ways.

Through different lenses focused on the body beautiful, the exhibition examines both traditional and unconventional definitions of beauty, challenging stereotypes of gender, race and age. It explores the links between beauty and violence, glamour and sexuality and the cost (in its multiple meanings) of beauty.

Featuring works from over 100 world-renowned beauty, fashion and fine art photographers, BEAUTY CULTURE encourages a social discussion about the allure and mystique of the pursuit of female beauty, as well as its cult-like glorification and the multi-billion dollar industries that surround it.

BEAUTY CULTURE presents diverse viewpoints on beauty as it has evolved through the 20th and 21st centuries. These viewpoints are at times challenging, daring and controversial. Ultimately, the exhibition illustrates the power of the still image in shaping cultural ideals and expectations of feminine beauty – and photography’s undeniable influence on conceptions of the Self.

In addition to over 170 photographs featured in the print gallery, BEAUTY CULTURE showcases hundreds of digital images in vivid detail on high-resolution screens in the Digital Gallery. The Digital Gallery also includes a short documentary film that expands upon the print exhibition’s themes, featuring interviews with well-known photographers, models, historians and beauty experts who guide visitors on a fascinating photographic exploration of the culture – and cult – of beauty.

If you have a moment, watch some of the featured photographers’ videos {incredibly powerful}. If you are in Los Angeles, visit the space. Either way, muse on the message.