Award-winning photographer Zed Nelson reflects on the cultural and commercial forces that drive a global obsession with youth and beauty.
Over a period of five years Zed Nelson visited eighteen countries across five continents, photographing cosmetic surgeons, beauty queens and bodybuilders alongside everyday teenagers, housewives and businessmen. In this extensive cross-cultural investigation, we see an annual prison beauty contest in a South American penitentiary, Iranians queuing for nose jobs in Tehran and female staff at a Russian nuclear agency competing for the title of'Miss Atom'.
The project explores a new form of globalisation, where an increasingly narrow Western beauty ideal is being exported around the world like a crude universal brand. Whilst Nelson's subjects appear willing participants in an omnipresent culture of bodily improvement, they might equally be considered hapless victims - at the mercy of larger social forces and locked into an insatiable craving for approval. As the subject's frailties and pretensions are exposed, so too are we the viewer: our motives for looking, for inspecting, along with uncomfortable reminders of our own vanities and insecurities.
Zed Nelson's previous awards include the Visa d'Or at the International Festival of Photojournalism, France; first prize in the World Press Photo Competition and the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award, USA.
The publication LOVE ME (Contrasto publishing), was recently shortlisted for the Leica European Publishers Award for Photography and awarded First Prize in the 2010 Pictures of the Year International Competition (USA).
LOVE ME is an Impressions Gallery Touring Exhibition and has been developed through a partnership between Impressions Gallery and Ffotogallery, the national development agency for photography and lens-based media in Wales.