Saturday, March 8, 2014


Excerpt from "Les Origines de la Beauté" by Natalia Ivanova

When Natalia Ivanova took photographs of models at fashion shows, she was struck by how similar everyone looked with their make-up on. This made her question the concept of beauty and led to an ambitious multi-media project that’s currently on display at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency.

Titled “Les Origines de la Beauté ” (The Ethnic Origins of Beauty), the non-commercial project is a documentary and artistic venture that seeks to capture feminine looks in all their diversity. It’s part of a group show celebrating International Women’s Day at the agency, which has made gender equality one of the UN's priorities.

Ivanova and one of her subjects. (©McKenzie) 
Ivanova said that she wants her photos to illustrate “the range of ethnic characteristics of the peoples of the world”, as a means to make viewers question their own ideas of what constitutes beauty.

“At most fashion shows, you will see only one kind of model on the runway, and I wanted to show that beauty has no type. I especially wanted to present women without makeup and to portray women of different ethnic origins,” said the Russian photojournalist, who works with the press agency ITAR-TASS in France.

She has photographed women in Moscow as well as in Paris, including some who were just travelling through. The project also includes a video of interviews in which her subjects talk about their background and experiences.

So far, 100 women have participated in the photo series, but the aim is to include more than 5,000 portraits in all, which would bring together all the “ethnicities of the human race”.

Ivanova adds that one of the main objectives is to “provide a different perspective on the diversity of physical and cultural characteristics of ethnic groups in order to see them not as a pretext for discrimination, but as an inexhaustible source of artistic inspiration, originality, individuality, intercultural dialogue and more”. - L. McKenzie & J.M. De Clercq

The exhibition runs until March 21 in Paris. For more information, go to: