But a review of the work in the 1908 issue of the California State Journal of Medicine included a prediction for the future of cosmetic surgery: ‘This small volume deals with an aspect of surgery remote from the interest of surgeons, but sooner or later featural surgery is destined to take its place as a recognized specialty.’ In the United States, Charles Miller’s one-time ‘quackery’ has evolved into a billion-dollar-a-year business.
In 2007, Americans spent 12.4 billion dollars on cosmetic plastic surgery procedures. America’s current cultural fixation with beauty is a complex and pervasive phenomenon. When Miller wrote his medical guidebook, modern technology was just beginning to enable us to correct or enhance our bodies. Today, there is a never-ending array of procedures that can make us beautiful. The process of re-making ourselves has become a full-time job. We believe, as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons website states, that, ‘Even a small change on the outside can create an extraordinary change on the inside, allowing an individual’s self-confidence to flourish.’ However, patients who enter these offices expecting this promise of happiness often have to confront their own fears, self-loathing and anxieties.
This collection of photographs resulted from both a personal struggle with body issues and a long history in the beauty business. In photographing these doctors’ offices, I not only developed my visual understanding of the world, but I was able to reconcile my own feelings about beauty. I found myself less interested in the actual place or thing than in capturing its emotional significance – for myself as an artist, and for those who have sought their salvation in these chairs, beds, machines and tools.
‘The best of beauty is a finer charm than skill in surfaces, in outlines, or rules of art can ever teach, namely, a radiation from the work of art of human character.’
Ralph Waldo Emerson