June 30, 2015

TIME and Photo Booth: Two Takes on Cosmetic Surgery and the “Opening Up” of Photography

“Untitled #15,” from the series “I Am a Woman and I Play the Horror of My Flesh,” by Ilona Szwarc. 2015. New Yorker – Photobooth.

New Time magazine cover photographed by Miles Aldridge.

As Hilton Als writes about the photo from “The Freedom of Young Photographers,” the Yale MFA 2015 Photography show previewed at The New Yorker Photo Booth :

Just as literature is opening up to cross many genres in a single work, photography is opening up to incorporate many genres and ideas—portraiture, street photography, gender philosophy, advertising, and so on—the better to emphasize the falseness of anything as specious as a single truth.

Both the photo and the quote seemed like a nice commentary, and rejoinder, to the self-sure statement (emphasis on “everyone”) and, of course, the threat of “Or Else,” on the cinematic cover of TIME. If you asked its creator, though, photographer Miles Aldridge would likely see it more closely aligned to the MFA shot. Describing his motivation, he says he’s borrowing from Hitchcock to capture a “luxury world where surreality reigns.” Bringing the TIME cover conceptually in line with the MFA photo, Aldridge states that he enjoys photographing joy as long as it captures artificiality. He adds that:

“The point of view is that surgery is a new form of make-up … we should accept in the way we accept dying our hair.”

If TIME wanted to really commit though, they would have used one of these Fembots on the cover from Aldridge’s accompanying photo gallery in which the entire world is plastic.

I may not be well equipped to expound on the artistic dimensions, but I think it’s fair game to considering how both images operate in an editorial setting. Perhaps Ms. Szwarc’s photo, though, should have been on the cover of TIME and Alridge’s should have been presented in the more documentary and, here, fine art-hosting New Yorker photo blog? Otherwise, it’s hard to understand the point of capturing artificiality on the TIME cover when cosmetic surgery is being presented as a ubiquitous commodity. It seems the commentary is a lot more consistent when it comes to Ms. Szwarc’s facial roadmap and the inflamed cuticle. But I wonder what you think?

(photo 1: Ilona Szwarc/New Yorker Photo Booth. photo 2: Miles Aldridge for TIME)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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