Cara Philips

Selected Work

“The best of beauty is a finer charm than skill in surfaces, in outlines, or rules of art can ever teach, namely, a radiation from the work of art of human character.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

America’s cultural fixation with beauty is a complex and pervasive phenomenon. Consumers have been presented with a seemingly endless array of new products and procedures to make them beautiful–and the American public has made the process of remaking themselves into a full-time job. In 2008 alone, over 10 billion dollars was spent on cosmetic procedures in the United States, because we believe, as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons website states, that “Even a small change on the outside can create an extraordinary change on the inside, allowing an individual’s self-confidence to flourish.”

In 2006, I set out to make this collection of photographs, inspired both by a personal struggle with body issues, and by a long history in the beauty business. In photographing these doctor’s offices, I not only developed a visual record of the mid-to-late 2000’s beauty zeitgeist, but I was able to begin to reconcile my own relationship with beauty. The project became less about the actual place or thing, than the emotional, psychological, political significance of the subject–for myself as an artist–and for those who sought their salvation in these chairs, beds, machines and tools.

Before coming to photography, Cara Phillips spent many years in the beauty industry. First as a child model for Ford Models and then as a make-up artist, specializing in ‘make-overs’ of everyday women at luxury department stores. In 2004, she began studying photography at Sarah Lawrence College. Since graduating in 2007, she has not only focused on her own making and exhibiting her own work, she has collaborated on numerous projects. She is the co-founder and curator of the online exhibition site, Women in Photography and a member of the international photography collective, Piece of Cake. Her work has been included in exhibitions at numerous New York galleries, and in shows in Boston, New York, Texas, and New Hampshire. She has received numerous awards and is in several private collections.