Last year, 17.5 million Americans underwent plastic surgery. The most popular procedures were breast augmentation, liposuction and nose reshaping. With lunchtime facelifts and cosmetic surgery loyalty schemes, it’s no surprise that the number of people going under the knife to “improve” their physical appearance has been steadily on the rise for some time.
In his latest series for Cactus magazine, photographer Timothy Schaumburg touches on the booming touch-up phenomenon. Timothy is based in Berlin and has, over the past four years, accumulated a large portfolio of accomplished work; from Gentlemonster to Highsnobiety to Sleek magazine, Timothy has captured anything from high-fashion office workers to Friedrich Nietzsche-inspired stories. However, despite his long list of achievements, photography wasn’t always on the cards for Timothy. “I started to photograph during my graphic design degree and realised it was way more fun than my typography studies,” the artist tells us via e-mail.
The Cactus series builds on Timothy’s previous work: “I’ve already shot a story, named med. esthetics I, together with Dr. Uluk from the Charité of Berlin that explored various aspects of plastic surgery. When I was told the theme of Cactus’ fifth issue was plastic surgery, I was immediately on board”. Deadpan shots and muted colours make up Timothy’s series, which documents a tightly-knit, devout family as the mother prepares for cosmetic augmentation. Timothy’s attention to detail is immaculate; the stylised and considered compositions reflect the regimented cosmetic surgery procedures, while the uncanny spotlight that features in a number of shots mirrors surgical lighting.
The series is made up of individual portrait shots and photographs of the collective family eating, talking and interacting, offering insights into individual characters as well as overarching familial dynamics. A particularly poignant shot is of the mother sitting naked in a room, her back to a full-length mirror, staring into the distance. Her closed posture and pensive gaze point to an anxiety or insecurity, which is made all the more obvious by the somber, deflated balloon. “I want to offer the viewer a small hint at the problems that others might be facing behind closed doors. I always try to incorporate a narrative layer into my work,” Timothy explains. Through his sensitive and expertly executed portrait of a woman and her family pre- and post-plastic surgery, Timothy offers the viewer an intimate glimpse into the ever-increasing global phenomenon.
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