Brooklyn-based photographer Cara Phillips developed this intriguing portrait project that uses ultraviolet light to reveal every tiny little imperfection across a person’s face. To produce the black and white series, the artist set up on the streets of New York with a sign that said “Free Portraits.” Any willing participants agreed to sit down right there and have their photo taken underneath a UV light.
Ultraviolet Beauties is a unique exploration that eliminates all of the retouching of a typical commercial portrait and exposes the more raw side of a person’s face. Phillips refers to the series as “anti-portraits” and she explains, “The aim of a portrait, in commercial and vernacular photography, is primarily to hide flaws–to present a two-dimensional ‘flawless’ version of the person. Even before Photoshop, photographers would hand paint negatives to enhance or improve the subject’s appearance. But [the function of these images] was to enhance and reveal flaws.”
Inspired by medical photos from doctors’ offices and medi-spa websites, Phillips invited her subjects to keep their eyes closed to create a sense of tension between what could be either a revealing or a restricting photograph. The subjects, with their eyes closed, become a vulnerable object and, as viewers, we become voyeurs who are peering in to a seemingly calm and intimate moment. It feels almost acceptable to critically examine every little pore and freckle and speck on each face without fearing the consequences of getting caught staring.