June 26, 2014 at 5:11 PM ET
What makes a woman beautiful? Is her hair, eye color or skin tone? A Photoshop experiment with photojournalists around the world shows how dramatically different the "ideal" beauty can be in different cultures.
Esther Honig, 24, a blogger and freelance writer in Kansas City wanted to see how a photo of herself would be altered to conform to the idea of beauty depending on the country where it was done. As part of the "Before & After" project, Honig sent an unaltered photo of herself to 40 Photoshop experts in more than 25 different countries, such as The Phillipines, Morocco, India, the United Kingdom and the United States. She asked them to touch up her photo to match what they thought represents beauty.
We know all about Photoshop shenanigans and fails and how the fakery of airbrushed perfection affects our body image. But Honig was surprised just how different the perception of beauty could be among people in the same country.
Some countries contributed more than one image; there were three photos from India, for example. but "there were no real patterns," Honig told TODAY.com. "I wasn’t seeing everyone in India reproducing my image in the same way, [but] that makes sense because it is a huge country [with ideals of beauty differing across the nation]," she says.
Of all the looks, the image from Morocco was most surprising to her.
That one really took my breath away... the most beautiful image that he could create was to dress me with a hijab," says Honig.
But it was the heavily altered images from the U.S. are by far the most manipulated image," says Honig. "Seeing those have really shocked me."