Photography plays an important role in defining fashion culture.  Various fashion photographers are out there. But I came across Steven Meisel and his work. In particular I was looking at his ‘Makeover Madness’ collection.

This collection stunned me a little bit. It isn’t what is expected of fashion photography, and why do we have an expectation? It shocks you, almost makes you cringe of what is going on in the images; you slightly feel the pain. Though we know it is constructed, it still surprises us.

The images are based around plastic surgery, a collection for Vogue (Italy) magazine. The collection is a mixture of before & after images, during the procedures, appointments, etc.

The desire to have plastic surgery is ongoing in both the celebrity world and greater society. It is an enduring phenomenon and one that above all seems to embrace both men and women.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons,  of the 1.7 million cosmetic surgical procedures performed in 2015, the top 5 were:

  • Breast augmentation (279,143 procedures, down 2 percent from 2014, up 31 percent from 2000)
  • Liposuction (222,051 procedures, up 5% from 2014 but down 37 percent from 2000)
  • Nose reshaping (217,979 procedures, unchanged from 2014, down 44 percent since 2000)
  • Eyelid surgery (203,934 procedures, down 1 percent from 2014, down 38 percent since 2000)
  • Tummy tuck (127,967 procedures, up 9 percent from 2014 and 104 percent since 2000)

Our culture/society today obsess over the idea of a perfect body image. Meisel provides snapshot types of images, showing a society obsessed with physical appearance.
Apparently, Steven Meisel is trying to show the elegance of supermodel Linda Evangelista and how that doesn’t come from any clinic. The collection ‘Makeover Madness’ brings out mixed feelings. The shoot is focused, and draws attention to the ‘gore’ of plastic surgery,  illustrating the unglamorous side of plastic surgery while still allowing the glamorous elements of the shoot to shine through. It is disturbing  yet powerful.

Below, an image by Meisel in the makeover madness collection;

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This image, featured in the collection makes you question why it’s in a fashion editorial.  The main focus isn’t on the fashion, as the clothing isn’t over the top.  It’s almost like she is in only comfortable clothing, as you would wear, in reality, post surgery. There is the small touches of the cardigan and the heel in the left corner on the third image, but no excessive jewellery or accessories. The image is in black and white, which almost brings out the pain and misery more. It looks like a serious illness, due to her impressions. It brings out the sense of documentary style photography, a realistic perspective.

This isn’t the only time plastic surgery has come into Fashion either. Tom Ford also created a series called La Panthère Ose for Vogue Paris.


His version however is a little bit more fashion based and raunchy compared to Meisel. However, Tom Ford has been open about his use of Botox and Restylane, yet seen to be criticizing the culture of cosmetic surgery within the work?

The whole collection, in regards to plastic surgery, left me gobsmacked. It brought a lot of questions to my mind. Is it for plastic surgery or against? Is it about the fact that they are beautiful already but still don’t see that? Is it disturbing or just intriguing ? It is definitely a different approach to an editorial collection. A lot of fashion photos are overlooked, but a lot of work is starting to connect with documentary and have a context behind it. This draws a thin line between reality and fashion.


  •  American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “Annual plastic surgery statistics reflect the changing face of plastic surgery.” ScienceDaily. accessed 21st August 2016,
  • Sauers, Jenna. 2010. “Crystal Renn And Tom Ford Make Plastic Surgery Raunchy”. Jezebel. Accessed 20th August 2016.
  • Shinkle, Eugénie. 2008. Fashion As Photograph. London: I.B. Tauris.