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Self Service
Photography Tatjiana Antoniou

How feminist is the beauty industry?

This photographer is picking apart the extent we go to fit societal beauty standards

The pressure on women today to fit into a narrow standard of beauty ideals is exponential: it’s been a year where fillers have been on the public’s collective lips, figuratively and literally. A continuing struggle for many women is the conflict between their outward appearance and their resistance to patriarchal notions of beauty. Is it possible to buy into beauty standards without compromising feminism?

CSM graduate Tatjiana Antoniou captures this in her latest release, Self Service. “I explored the pressures of perceived beauty and the effects they have on women within a contemporary society,” she explains. “The subject of beauty has been an ongoing interest of mine. I wanted this project to portray the different lengths women go to in order to achieve beauty.”

Self Service traces the varied processes women undertake to ‘look good’: capturing saturated, starkly bright snaps of lip injections, tanning and pedicures. Antoniou travelled to the Professional Beauty Show to meet and photograph women for her project, and utilised her own mother’s salon, capturing her clients at work.

Antoniou observes that this piece, alongside past series, centres around the notion of feminism. “This project in particular is a documentation of women of different ages interested in beauty and capturing women during their beautification processes,” she says.

She admits she entered the project with mixed feelings, tinged with “an overriding feeling of negativity toward the industry”, which is something that’s basically built on the backs of insecurity. However, after seeing the essential creativity, effort and female collaboration that goes into the industry, she changed her outlook. Antoniou says: “after this project, photographing and meeting the women who go through their beautification treatments, my feelings altered to be more positive.”

The definition of beauty is nuanced: while the beauty industry can hinder self-esteem, it’s something that brings joy and stimulation to many. After all, it's a woman's prerogative: what we do with our faces and bodies is entirely up to us. “I don’t think it should be relied on to value and accept yourself," says Antoniou, "but it is a continually growing industry that can positively influence.”

Check out more of Tatjiana Antoniou's work here