The Beauty Project - Hello beautiful

What's your definition of beauty? Join us as we curate the conversation with a six week programme of pioneering talks, interactive debates and immersive beauty experiences.

Hello beautiful

We meet the eight stars of our campaign, interview the man behind the camera and take you behind-the-scenes on set.

Monique, 26,
Theatre Director/

"My definition of beauty has a space for everyone."
Sophie, 22,
Make-up Artist

"My definition of beauty is a combination of qualities, some seen, some felt - though not all that is beautiful can be redeemed by the eyes."
Richard, 29,
Body Piercer

"My definition of beauty is being yourself and looking the way you want to."
Alice, 20,
Fashion Design Student

"My definition of beauty is natural and personal. Not forcing something to fit under someone else's perception."
Jill, 71, Model
"My definition of beauty is ageless, natural and authentic, a spirit that shines from within."
Iska, 21,

"My definition of beauty is being confident in your appearance and not being afraid to stand out from the crowd."
Suren, 27,

"My definition of beauty is someone who shares love, compassion and happiness in the face of adversity."
Suzanne, 40,

"My definition of beauty is an attractive quality from within a person, it's not just skin deep."

Norbert Schoerner

Meet the man behind the lens as we talk to photographer Norbert Schoerner about the campaign, the casting and his views on retouching.

Do you think your definition of beauty has been influenced by working in the fashion industry?
To a degree. The camera has a very particular way of recording beauty and both an emotional and a technical specificity. I know what works best for a fashion or beauty image but that doesn't necessarily always overlap with what I find beautiful in 'real' life, outside of that process.

Where do you stand on the beauty/fashion industry's use of retouching?
During its 180-year history, portrait (or 'beauty') photography has often been interpreted as a pseudo-objective extension of painting. The desire to manipulate, illustrate or retouch an image seems as old as photography itself. The use of lighting, certain lenses or camera angles can also be seen as image manipulation as it implies an 'edited' reality.

The advent of Photoshop, coding and computer processing power have made the process more instant and completely ubiquitous (Instagram filters are a lo­res form of retouching) and enables a more 'realistic' and accurate result than techniques used in the 20th century. It usually depends on the creative purpose behind the photograph: whether one aims for a hyper-real image or a point/shoot documentary style approach. Both project their own pretence of 'truth'.

For me there is a problem if the context of its publication masks the actual post-production process behind the image. Celebrity covers are usually the worst offenders, as that particular context pretends that they really look that way.

How do you think the use of retouching has influenced society's definition of beauty?
One would think that by now most people are aware of the extent that retouching is being used in the magazine industry. But in a way they want to believe, as it seems that in our society the role and aim of beauty imagery is still an aspirational one - an idealised representation of an idealised reality. I would say that outside the media celebrity world, most people still have an idea of what they would define as 'beautiful' in their daily lives.

What was your approach to retouching in relation to this campaign?
We used digital post-production for colour correction and general grading. We didn't remove any wrinkles or retouch the skin texture and didn't re-shape the physiognomy of the models, which is often a standard procedure nowadays.

You have said before all your work goes back to the act of storytelling, what stories do these pictures tell?
They freeze a moment in time, with a strong emphasis on the models' personalities. I would hope that the viewer gets a sense of an aspect of their identities. That's storytelling for me.

Tell us about how you cast for this campaign?
The aim was to represent a broad range of different characters; personality was a key factor. We looked at about 900 people in the first round of casting and then asked about 40 people to come for the 2nd round, when we interviewed and filmed them. The 3rd round was a test shoot with the short-list of candidates.

How do you feel this campaign is different to other beauty campaigns?
It is a hybrid of a beauty and a portrait approach. Our campaign emphasises the fact that beauty is hard to define. What makes it special is obviously the casting and that it communicates an unusual level of realism for a beauty campaign. I'd say that other campaigns don't always achieve that.

Behind the scenes

See what happened behind the scenes on the set of our campaign shoot.

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