In Mask of Perfection, Marc Erwin Babej, together with Maria M. LoTempio, MD, examine the complex relationship between the subjective beauty society perceives – as compared to the scientific, geometry-based standard applied by most plastic surgeons. The project examines the rise and influence of a standard of beauty that is influencing many in the general public to alter their own appearance – to more closely match that of celebrities who have already adjusted themselves to this standard. Babej’s images of subjects with pre-operative markings by Dr. LoTempio exemplify this radical challenge to the concept of natural beauty. The work superimposes the emerging scientific standard on the subjective view of beauty and, in so doing, reveals the discrepancies and tensions between the two. To achieve this, Marc and Dr. LoTempio selected twelve women in their Twenties who conform to the natural standard of beauty (“the last people who'd 'need' any work done”): they are young, highly attractive, and don't have any particular feature that would call for alteration. Dr. LoTempio was given the assignment to do what it takes to "upgrade" these "patients" according to the standards of her profession. All patients were initially evaluated via a set of five clinical images (frontal, 3/4 and full profiles on both side) and then examined in person. Finally, they were marked with pre-operative markings - the Mask of Perfection. The images in this series were taken in this state. The series employs dual alienation effects: The markings prevent viewers from immersing themselves in the natural beauty of the patients. Meanwhile, the aestheticizing style of 1930s Hollywood portraiture bars viewers from overly identifying with the plastic surgeon. Mask of Perfection is Marc's first fine art photography series. It will be shown at Art Basel Miami 2013, (e)merge Art Fair 2013 in Washington.
Marc Erwin Babej is a fine art and documentary photographer who works exclusively in black-and-white. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1970, he received a B.A. in history from Brown University and an M.Sc. from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Marc’s background in social sciences, marketing strategy, media and entertainment pervades his photographic work. Uneasy coexistences are a predominant theme: his images surface inner conflicts and, in so doing, expose seemingly contradictory beliefs. Conflict is a key means of representation – a stance that embraces the viewer with one arm, while holding him at a distance with the other. Marc’s image-making method calls for intensive collaboration with cast members. Members of his still-image film ensemble Mercury Theatre, feature in a variety of roles across the work. Marc’s work is published regularly – both in general media and in international art publications. He also writes a column about luminaries in art and documentary photography for Der Spiegel and American Photo.