Manuela Henao, an LCC Postgraduate Diploma Photography Portfolio Development graduate, has just published her photographic series ‘Beauties’. Manuela was able to make the series, which explores beauty ideals in Colombian teenage girls, after being awarded the Joan Wakelin Bursary in association with the Royal Photographic Society and the Guardian.
With the £2000 from the bursary Manuela was able to travel to Medellín in Colombia where she spent three months photographing a series of young women she met and spoke to. The series has proven to be highly controversial in Colombia, with Manuela’s images making their way into every major national newspaper in the country.
Manuela explains, “Women in Medellín grew up in a society saturated with images of Narcoculture, women were seen as decorative objects and plastic surgery was the norm. Now the economy is booming in Medellin and capitalism has become part of people’s mind set, these two factors have created a particular interpretation of beauty and femininity in the city.”
Some of the girls who Manuela spoke to had started having plastic surgery at the age of fifteen. Estefania, an eighteen year old depicted in the series explains “I can’t even remember when I started to want to change my body, I feel like I have always had that desire in my mind. When I was very little I remember saying to my Mum that one day I will have breast implants.”
Slimming pills are becoming commonplace amongst young women in Medellín. Well known models act as sales representatives, selling the pills through their Facebook pages. The pressure to look a certain way is so great that many who can’t afford to visit qualified plastic surgeons often seek cheaper alternatives.