|Christopher, 22. Chest wax, J. Sister's Salon, New York, USA.|
The fashion and beauty industries, in many ways, long ago successfully devoured the very concept of femininity and what it means to be a woman and accepted in modern culture. With this frontier thoroughly fought over it was then recognised that 50% of potential makeup and beauty sales were still left untapped: Men. Thus the contemporary man was born.
Exhibit A: Christopher, 22; a clearly image-conscious and well-preened young man (whether homosexual or merely metrosexual, we are not shown enough to know for sure). He peers intently into the mirror he holds up to himself, examining his chest after a beauty treatment, his right hand caressing his skin, still tender and red from waxing.
Have you ever seen someone with a more intense self-regard, his hard eyes staring down his own reflection? It could be seen as narcissism but perhaps self-criticism would be a more accurate word, even judgment. He is his own sculpture, an object of his own ongoing creation and reassessment.
The mirror has long been a symbol of vanity and is seen throughout art history, particularly as a uniquely feminine, vice. The classical profile composition, with hints of classical architecture behind, enters into this tradition, reminding us of the historical notions of beauty, which have led us to the commodification present today.
Zed Nelson, a London-based photographer, focuses on a wide range of subjects in his series Love Me, of which this image is a part. His camera inconspicuously captures the profound effect which conforming, often commercially created, ideals of beauty have on all of us.
World Press Photo 10, Thames & Hudson, 2010.