Plastic surgery has become the norm for many, especially in South Korea. As mentioned in a recent article in The New Yorker, the country has the highest per capita rate of plastic surgery in the world. Perhaps that explains the attention Brooklyn-based photographer Ji Yeo received for her project documenting women after they had plastic surgery, while they were still bruised and bandaged. In a statement about “Beauty Recovery Room,” Yeo writes: “It is a culture where men are judged on their financial balance sheet and women by their beauty. The male-dominated media endlessly reinforces its model of the ideal woman. As a result of these cultural forces Korea has become a beauty-oriented society where people are judged more for their appearance than their character.”
Yeo’s newest projects “It Will Hurt A Little” and “Casting Call” are currently on display at Baxter St. at the Camera Club of New York through May 22, 2015. For “Casting Call,” Yeo posted a social media announcement “looking for a model to represent the new Korean beauty,” and she photographed the women who responded to her ad, some of them famous from reality TV shows or Facebook. “It Will Hurt A Little” is a series documenting high-end clinics from the reception area to consultation rooms to operating “theaters.” We asked Yeo how she got permission to make her photographs.
PDN: Where did the ideas for the new projects come from?
Ji Yeo: I started “Beauty Recovery Room” in 2009, and I witnessed the plastic surgery industry in Korea grow dramatically every year. I saw one doctor’s plastic surgery clinic grow into a huge company, hiring 250 employees, building a 20-story building. I wanted to address the scale of the industry, visualize the millions of people who’ve passed through these rooms and halls.
PDN: How did you begin the project?
JY: I started the project by calling hundreds of clinics like a telemarketer, introducing myself, asking receptionists for the contact information of in-house marketing teams.
PDN: How long spend on each shot?
JY: I went to clinics before and after business hours. Because I had to finish shooting before patients entered the clinic, I only had an hour to two hours to shoot entire clinics. It was always challenging to capture several floors, the variety of facilities, in short amount of time.
The show at Baxter CCNY includes large-scale prints, and promotional booklets Yeo brought back from the clinics. Eventually she would like to publish a set of three books that would include “Beauty Recovery Room,” “It Will Hurt A Little,” and “Casting Call.” A prototype is also on view at the exhibition.