For his new book, Love Me, photographer Zed Nelson traveled to 18 countries over five years, documenting extreme measures undertaken in the quest for cosmetic perfection. Nelson’s unsettling images of plastic surgeons, beauty queens and bodybuilders underscore the seduction of narcissistic compulsion. “Beauty is a $160 billion-a-year global industry,” he says. “Body improvement has become a new religion.”
“When I arrived in Iran, I was amazed,” Nelson says. “My interpreter had had a nose job, as had her mother, her sister, and her two best friends. People were proudly walking in the streets with bandaged noses, excited to be the new owners of small, chiseled, American-style noses.”
Crying beauty pageant contestant
As cosmetic surgery has become more common, new uses for established procedures have emerged. In China, the Ilizarov procedure—which was originally developed to lengthen the legs of dwarves—has become popular for people who simply want to be taller (an Ilizarov procedure in Beijing). By severing the shinbones and stretching them apart with an implanted metal frame, up to three new inches of leg bone can be grown, but the operation comes with risks of deformation and weakened muscles.
Child Beauty Pageant Winner
Nelson sees the never-ending pursuit of youth as a driving cause behind the worldwide trend of appearance modification (Sally Walker, age undisclosed, at the Cosmetic Enhancement Expo in Dallas, Texas). “As our role models become ever younger and more idealized, we are so afraid of aging that the quest for youthful preservation generates an almost pathological obsession with our bodies,” he says.