Journalist Esther Honig wanted to see what beauty standards were like in different cultures. She could have simply bought a magazine or watched some films, but instead she decided to try an experiment.
For her Before & After project, Honig used the power of crowdsourcing to see how different illustrators around the world see beauty in their own cultures.
Honig found 40 artists – a mix of amateurs and professionals – from dozens of countries, and sent them an un-retouched image of her head and shoulders. She paid them a small fee to fulfill one simple job: Make her “beautiful.”
On her website, Honig called the resulting images “intriguing and insightful.”
“Photoshop allows us to achieve our unobtainable standard of beauty,” she wrote, “but when we compare those standards on a global scale, achieving the ideal remains all the more elusive.”
See a selection of the Before & After images below.
The Moroccan artist gave Honig a modest makeover, photoshopping her into a colorful Muslim hijab.
The Israeli artist chose to darken Honig’s hair and eyebrows and added a virtual touch of eyeliner and lipstick.
It’s a fraught topic, but as this image shows, a paler complexion is still the standard of beauty in India.
Greece went heavy on the airbrush tools.
The German artist went avant-garde, giving Honig dyed-red hair and a washed-out look that makes her resemble the title character in the country’s classic film, Run Lola Run.
Some Photoshoppers put more effort in than others. Case in point: the Argentinean illustrator, who totally transformed Honig’s facial structure, and also gave her a face full of makeup.
With her new lipstick and flowing locks, the Filipino version of Honig wouldn’t look out of place on a magazine cover.
We’ve got to give credit to the Bangladeshi Photoshopper here; not only did they retouch her a totally new haircut, but they also gave her a fun and flirty ballerina-inspired dress with a feathery sweetheart neckline.
The United States
America was not immune to the experiment. In Honig’s home country, the illustrator replaced her messy bun with flowing locks of lustrous brown. Besides changing her eye color, the American artist also brought out her cheekbones and, somewhat curiously, elongated her forehead.
Compared to some of the other artists, our Australian illustrator kept things fairly subtle. Aside from a little rouge and lip balm, Honig is perfect the way she is Down Under.