Esther Honig, a freelance journalist based out of Kansas City, sent an unaltered photograph of herself to more than 40 Photoshop aficionados around the world. “Make me beautiful,” she said, hoping to bring to light how standards of beauty differ across various cultures.
The project, titled Before & After, originally came to Honig while she was working as a social media manager for a small startup. Her boss introduced her to Fiverr, an international freelancing website where anyone can hire freelancers from around the globe to complete almost any task imaginable. While browsing the site, Honig realized the prevalence of those offering Photoshop skills. “It immediately occurred to me that in this pool of workers, each individual likely had an aesthetic preference particular to their own culture,” Honig told BuzzFeed. Thus, the idea for Before & After was born.
Working with freelancers in over 25 countries, Honig expected that the images would differ from country to country, but was herself caught off guard by just how drastically some of the images were altered. “Seeing some jobs for the first time made me shriek… Other times images, like the one from Morocco, took my breath away because they were far more insightful than I could have expected,” Honig said.
To be sure, the images Honig has collected so far are interesting as individual images, a unique portrait of the standards of beauty in each country. However, when taken in totality, the project becomes much more striking, an interesting launching point into a global conversation about unattainable beauty standards around the world. “What I’ve learned from the project is this: Photoshop [may] allow us to achieve our unobtainable standards of beauty, but when we compare those standards on a global scale, achieving the ideal remains all the more illusive.”
Below are the photographs that Honig has collected thus far. Note: Some countries have multiple images from different artists. Honig continues her project on her website.