I recently got an email from Shelby Tsuji about an amazing new project she’s been working on. I immediately knew it would be a great feature on the Nonsense Society. Shelby has been exploring self image, beauty, and the effects of commercial media on women. This isn’t a new topic, but Shelby has found a moving way to express/portray how serious it really is. In Shelby’s series, she places a strip of painter’s tape down the center of a girl’s face and applies heavy make up to one side of her face. After removing the tape, she photographs the subject against a white background with heavy light and includes a statement from the model. The result is startling and intense. Take a look.
“Society and the media vastly warped my perception of beauty growing up. Because the industry had fabricated an image of the untouchable woman as a vehicle to sell products, which in turn cast societal standards of beauty, my entire life I evaluated myself through a screen of false images and perceptions. It has taken me a long time to see beautiful aspects of myself that are wonderfully unique to me.”
“The way women are retouched and portrayed in the media is so unrealistic. Not only does it set a standard of beauty that no human can achieve, it actually makes you feel inadequate because you think that’s how every normal woman should look. They shave away at the human female until she’s no longer a woman, but a product.”
“Personally makeup doesn’t affect me much, it’s the girls wearing it and selling it that do. Girls that are selected for their height, weight, and look are done up in the best clothes and make up for advertisements, not only representing a small portion of what the actual population really looks like, but they also still aren’t good enough. After picking the prettiest, thinnest girls, the media introduces Photoshop: making the girls prettier, thinner, and even more unrealistic. These are the “girls” I have to compare myself to. The ones I’m supposed to aspire to look like, and they’re not even real.”
“There is a certain irony or paradox to cosmetics or makeup, a cheerful friend to most ladies but definitely a deceptive foe as well. Honestly I don’t have a vendetta against makeup or even the societal focus on the outward appearance of a person. In fact, I think, it’s only natural in a world where lives are so rushed and a person can only relate to another using five senses alone, sight playing possibly the biggest part. Therefore, it is only natural that humans produce products to enhance certain features they believe will get them just that much further in life. I have seen makeup do remarkable things like give a girl with eye-turning acne the confidence to say that she is beautiful and believe in herself and her body. The paradox with makeup is that while it has the power to give someone that confidence boost, it is also the reason why that someone might have felt insecure in the first place. Today, makeup along with other forms of cosmetic tools are used to create THE image that every girl strives to achieve but is ultimately unreachable because it’s made-up. Makeup itself, however, is not the root of all evil; it is the people with the power to influence millions of women through a single billboard ad that abuse the tools given, and it is people that are the ultimate oppressors of each other.”
“It is hard to drive by the billboards, watch the commercials on television, and flip through magazines with shots of gorgeous women on them and not think, “Wow, I wish I had her [eyes, hair, jawline, body, abs, legs].” I feel like in today’s society we tend to criticize more than compliment, which can quickly turn into criticizing ourselves, therefore lowering our self-esteem. However what many people fail to fully accept is that these women are made to look like that with professional makeup artists and Photoshop. By publishing these images, the media is indirectly stating that even after they choose the “prettiest” girls, even they aren’t good enough. So…who is? I believe that the women who are confident in and happy with their appearance are those who shine the brightest of all.”
Shelby (the artist)
“I grew up as a tom boy, sworn off makeup, magazines, and anything too girly. I started wearing makeup for horse shows and soon found that I felt ugly whenever I wasn’t wearing makeup. By my senior year of high school I found that I had broken all my tom boy rules, comparing myself to the girls all over the media and completely dependent on makeup if I had any desire to show my face in public. I had the idea to do this project one day when I did heavy makeup on one side of my face to see what the difference would look like. I can honestly say it still disgusts me how fabricated pictures can still affect my body image. I hope this project helps people create an emotional connection with this problem, not of makeup, but rather the way altered media affects women. There are many campaigns highlighting this problem, but this brings a completely new perspective I hope other people can see.”
“In 8th grade my self-confidence was non-existent, because of the measuring stick the media was constantly shoving in my face. I knew that they weren’t “real” women, but I still wanted to look like them; I still wanted to be perfect. I would wake up in the morning and cry because of the flaws I saw in the mirror, wishing I looked like someone else.. What I didn’t realize was that God makes every single woman a MASTERPIECE in His sight. We have just tainted the works of art.”
“I love who I am; I’m loud, smart and quirky and I think I look pretty darn good. Yes there’s always going to be someone taller than me, prettier and skinner than me, and yes, I wish I looked like a Victoria’s Secret Model. But in my 19 years I have learned those “models” are the exception to the rule and now I use them as a model for what I don’t want to be. All the girls that try to be the media’s artificial woman tend to be vain, two-dimensional, and unhappy; and why would anyone live their life that way? Yes the media and these models and celebrities will always be prevalent in our culture but I believe the girls who ARE real are the most beautiful women out there.”
About the Artist/Photographer, Sheby Tsuji
Shelby Tsuji is a young (19) artist/photographer from California (USA) who is currently studying in Texas. For more about Shelby you can visit her photography company website or her blog, Diamonds to Glass.
Words from Shelby:
This world has been filled with beauty, music, and love. In turn we must have the courage and faith to look, listen, open our hearts, and make the difference.
I am so much more than just my name, race, gender, and art. I am “Terribly Beautiful – Diamonds to Glass.” I look to capture real life moments and emotions through my work. I love story telling through photography. I hope to continue to expand my talents and interests while I apply my innovative and creative thinking to the world around me. I hope to one day apply my life outlook (see below) to my work in order to bring about significant positive change.
If life has taught me anything it is that one never stops learning and there is no promise for tomorrow. Photography is perhaps the only form of work I have ever seen that has been able to capture both the terrible devastation of war along with the beauty of camaraderie and emotion. If something admirable can be brought out of a terrifying situation then there must be something wrong in the world if people can look at all the incredible things we are surrounded by and still not find beauty. When I walk through the street I find beauty is not just a possession per-se, but reflected in the most unexpected places, in many overlooked things and people, all “Terribly Beautiful.” It is easy to put on blindfolds and hide from all that which might seem undesirable, but just because we “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil,” does not mean there is no evil. Instead there is a world full of “Terribly Beautiful” that could be embraced if people chose to open their hearts to it.
One of my favorite quotes is “if all our life is but a dream, fantastic posing greed, then we should feed our jewelry to the sea, for diamonds do appear to be, much like broken glass me.” The concept of diamonds and broken glass, two very diverse items, being seen as interchangeable strengthens my idea of Terribly Beautiful. That which was once only for the rich is now as valuable as broken glass.
- Disney Imagineers
- Richard Avedon
- Albert Watson
- Irving Penn
- David LaChapelle
- Will Steacy
Shelby’s Music to Inspire
Other Work by Shelby