I believe in beauty, the real kind of beauty, the kind of beauty that goes beyond appearances, the kind we have all around and inside of us.
We live in a society still made of unrealistic and unachievable self-esteem-killer’s beauty standards that make countless women suffer, make them feel like they are "never enough". But beauty has a million shades and very woman deserve to feel comfortable in her own skin.
That’s why I created ‘Quest for Beauty’, a photography and research project based on one simple question:
“What is beauty?”.
'Quest for Beauty' is an actual quest around the world to rediscover and redefine the meaning of the word itself, in an attempt to change the collective perspective we have of it.
After working as a fashion photographer for several years, i quit the industry the moment i realised my work was contributing in creating those toxic beauty standards. In 2015 I created the project, I started solo-traveling the world photographing and interviewing the women I met on the road, immersed in their everyday life, to find out what beauty meant to them.
To each woman I can talk to I ask the same 5 questions:
- What is Beauty?
- What's the most beautiful thing in the world to you?
- What makes a woman beautiful?
- What makes a woman unbeautiful?
- Do you feel beautiful?
After 7 years of working on this project and 15 countries covered I can happily said 95% of the time women answer to these questions with abstract notions that have nothing to do with the physical and material idea society has of Beauty, nor to the standards imposed on us.
THE STORY BEHIND THE PROJECT
A quest always begins with a question...
I had been working as a fashion photographer in NYC, London, LA and Milan for about 3 years when I started to feel torn inside. I had recently noticed that more and more of my (beautiful) friends were constantly saying horrible things about their bodies and the way they looked; I had been guilty of that myself, many times actually, to the point that when I looked in the mirror I would catch myslef thinking "I wish I could photoshopped my face (irl)".
Then one day I was on set, i was shooting a 14 years old model and without me asking her she started doing very provocative poses, way too provocative for her age, and in that very moment i felt a "crack" inside.
I suddenly realized that with the kind of work I was producing, I was contributing to set very unrealistic Beauty standards that made my friends, myself and countless other women suffer—emotionally, psychologically and sometime even physically; coming from a background in contemporary dance i witnessed battles with eating disorders first hand—standards that perpetuate gender inequality and the objectification of women.
After doing a lot of research I came to understand that the medias and the fashion, beauty, plastic surgery and advertising industries feed on our insecurities and purposely create unachievable and unrealistic standard of beauty and perfection to make us feel dissatisfied with the way we look and make us think we are not good enough the way we are, so that they can sell us products to "make us more beautiful" and turn us in perfect consumers.
Images are powerful tools, they can influence the way see ourselves and the world, and if used in the wrong way they can have devastating consequences. Once I understood that I knew I didn't want to be part of that self-esteem-killer-machine anymore. I wanted to put my photography skills to use for something good, something that would make women feel good about themselves, not oppress them.
I started asking myself questions, one in particular wouldn't leave me alone:
"What is Beauty?"
I had to find out. So I left the fashion world and decided to go on a quest, a Quest for Beauty, around the world!
THE POWER OF IMAGES ON OUR SELF-ESTEEM
The images we are constantly bombarded by—advertisements, magazines, and now even on social media—very rarely reflect reality.
I used to create those images, I know it takes hours of work to achieve the final result. The images you see on magazines and advertisement billboards require a model with physical traits that belong to below 2% of the population, a whole team of professionals that controls every tiny detail on set and lots of photoshop and post production afterwards. At the end of the day the girl in the picture doesn't even look like the girl in the picture. Yet we look at the girl in the picture and feel inadequate because we don't look like her. That's because she—white, young, thin, small nose, perfectly simmetrical face—has become the standard, the ideal of beauty society chose for us.
Those kind of images are everywhere, online and offline, and when all the images we absorbed represent a perfection that doesn't exist, our sense of reality gets distorted, making us think we are not good enough the way we are, because we don't look like that standard, and we aspire to reach it. But we never will, cause those standards are un real and unachavable.
The media and the fashion, beauty, plastic surgery, and advertising industry profit from creating our insecurities, to make us buy more products to "feel more beautiful". These toxic standards influence our lives, objectify women, perpetuate gender inequality and create emotional and physical suffering, often causing depression, anxiety, eating disorders. Men lately are affected by all this too but women remain the most target and affected victims, and teenager are the ones most at risk.
Beauty comes in every size, age and skin tone and we shouldn't aspire to self-esteem-killer ideals, but embrace our imperfections and learn to love ourselves and our bodies the way they are.
It's time to change those standards, normalize beauty and have healthier media and more responsible image consumption.
Join the Quest!
MEET THE PHOTOGRAPHER - SARA MELOTTI
I'm the photographer and the pen behind QUEST FOR BEAUTY.
I'm a no-bullshit free spirited artist. Italian born but made in USA, former dancer, former fashion photographer, i now travel the world to tell stories and find Beauty, the real kind: the beauty we all have within and often lays in our imperfections, the beauty that's all around us and hides in the smallest details of life.
You can learn more about me, my story and my work HERE
Do you want to partecipate or do you know someone with an interesting story that would be a good fit for the project?
Drop me a message here!