When journalist Esther Honig was introduced to Fiverr, a marketplace that connects freelancers around the world for tasks ranging from translation services to holding a birthday sign on a unicycle while playing the trumpet, she noticed a trend: Many freelancers touted Photoshopping among their set of skills.
Intrigued, Honig, who is based in Kansas City, sent her photo off to 40 individuals in 25 countries with a simple instruction: Make me beautiful. Honig hoped that each designer would "pull from their personal and cultural constructs of beauty to enhance [her] unaltered image." The result is Honig's "Before & After" project, a fascinating chronicle of cultural beauty standards around the world.
We already know that Photoshop creates unrealistic beauty ideals, but it's striking to see how much these vary globally. Some designers lightened Honig's skin and eyes, others tweaked her bone structure and everyone seemed to have a vastly different interpretation of what makes the perfect pair of eyebrows.
"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 told Buzzfeed.
The quality of Photoshopping ranges from the professional to the decidedly amateur (the U.S. seems to have gotten a bit carried away), but the images grant unique insight into the aesthetics different cultures and individuals may value, and remind us that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.
As Honig writes in her description of the project, "Photoshop allows 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."