The self-taught photographer Danny Evans is fascinated by the ways in which celebrities are photoshopped and airbrushed onto billboards and magazine covers. In an attempt to subvert the image of the affluent, picture perfect star, he photoshops images of celebrities, reimagining them the average American citizen. In his words, his “make-unders” reveal “what’s left after Hollywood has been scrubbed off,” positioning pop culture icons within an almost stereotypical suburban landscapes, with outdated hairdos and all.
The work is morally conflicting; on one hand, it’s admirable to disrupt the shiny facade with which we are presented images of the “rich and beautiful,” but it also reads as potentially mean-spirited. The pictures, without an explanation of the artist’s goal, look uncomfortably similar to hurtful tabloid images with captions that read “stars without makeup” or “what she really looked like in middle school.”
Perhaps my distrust of the work is a testament to its success; maybe we’re not supposed to enjoy mocking celebrities and how they appear in photos, but instead to question our impulse to do so. We place stars on a pedestal, only to tear them down, often in cruel and superficial ways. Whether we’re photoshopping stars to fit a mold of idealized beauty or retouching them in ways our society deems “unattractive,” the doctoring of images is often exploitative and rarely empowering. The fact is that we’re all real people, regardless of profession or status, and everyone should be able to be captured on film without being judged.
What do you think of Evans’s series? Is it a mean expression of the aggression we feel towards our celebrities or is it a more complex cultural critique aimed at the cult of conventional beauty standards? Let us know in the comments.
Images via Beautiful/Decay