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Artbound Special: Annenberg Space for Photography - Beauty Culture

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In partnership with The Annenberg Space for Photography to present five television specials that showcase the breadth of artistic works displayed in recent exhibitions at the Photography Space.

Artbound Presents Annenberg Space for Photography "Beauty Culture" is a photographic exploration of how feminine beauty is defined, challenged and revered in modern society. Featuring works from iconic photographers such as Albert Watson, Bert Stern, Herb Ritts, Man Ray, Jean-Paul Goude, Guy Bourdin, Horst, Melvin Sokolsky, Matthew Rolston, Philippe Halsman, Lauren Greenfield and Tyen, "Beauty Culture" encourages a social dialogue about the allure and mystique of the pursuit of female beauty, as well as the cult-like glorification and multi-billion dollar industries that surround it.

"Annenberg Space for Photography: Beauty Culture" airs nationally on LINKTV beginning Monday, May 25. See broadcast times here.

In 2011, Annenberg Space for Photography presented "Beauty Culture," a look at beauty ideals that included the works of photographers renowned for editorial, fine art and documentary works. Coinciding with the exhibition was Lauren Greenfield's film "Beauty Culture," which further explores the pursuit of beauty in the 21st century.

"Beauty Culture," the documentary, features interviews with models, pageant contestants, photographers, agents and a range of others discussing their own experiences and thoughts on today's attitudes about beauty.

Photo: Lauren Greenfield.
Photo: Lauren Greenfield.

A "tribe of perfected people" is how psychologist Nancy Etcoff, author of "Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty," describes beauty icons in the documentary. Model/author Crystral Renn ("Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves") discusses how her pursuit of a model-thin figure led to an eating disorder. Renn was discovered at the age of 14. "Of course, there has to be a but involved," she says, "and that but was my butt. I basically had to lose 10 inches off my hips." Teen model Luna White mentions that she hasn't been able to book work. "I don't get sent out, really, because I haven't reached the weight goal that they gave me," she says.

Model Anna Bayle, who posed for the likes of Shiseido Cosmetics, Chanel and Valentino, discusses the intersection of race and beauty standards. "There was no space for, like, an Asian model like me," she says in the documentary, "There was no chance to succeed whatsoever." Agent Bethann Hardison discusses how the industry uses fashion trends in justifying the lack of diversity among models and how caucasian ideals remain in place even when models of color are hired. "I've tried to get them to do diversity," Hardison says, " and they won't go towards it."

Photo: Melvin Sokolsky.
Photo: Melvin Sokolsky.
Photo: Herb Ritts.
Photo: Herb Ritts.

But the pressure goes beyond the modeling world. One woman describes the plastic surgery procedures she has undergone. Journalist Alex Kuczynski talks about her own "wake up moment" with a lip injection. "I realized my vanity had actually taken away an important day in my life." Meanwhile, a breast cancer survivor talks about the impact that a mastectomy had on her self-esteem and intimate life.

Also included in the film are photographers Tyen, who worked extensively with Dior, as well as Albert Watson, Gilles Bensimon and Melvin Sokolsky. The artists give insight on how beauty ideals impact their work.

Director Lauren Greenfield frequently explores issues surrounding wealth, status and youth culture. Her feature-length documentary "The Queen of Versailles," about Westgate Resorts' David and Jackie Siegel's attempt to build the largest home in the U.S., won multiple awards, including the Best Director U.S. Documentary Feature prize at Sundance Film Festival. Among her other works are the HBO film "Thin" and the short "Kids + Money. "She recently helmed the acclaimed campaign for Always that asks, "What does it mean to do something 'like a girl?'"

Photo: Jodi Cobb.
Photo: Jodi Cobb.
Photo: Lauren Greenfield.
Photo: Lauren Greenfield.


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