Student aims to challenge society’s view of beauty through photo series


    Last summer, sophomore film, television and digital media major Shelby Tsuji decided to use art to as a way to help young women and girls improve their body image and self-esteem. 

    She began a photography series called the Point Five Project, a compilation of pictures of young women where one side of their faces is bare, and the other side is fully made-up and edited with Photoshop, she said.

    To produce her images, Tsuji said she puts a strip of painter’s tape down the middle of the subject's face, creating a straight line that shows the contrast between the natural side and the made-up side. From there, the participant has the right side of her face covered with heavy makeup. 

    Once the makeup is applied, Tsuji photographs the subject in her room against a plain white backdrop.

    Tsuji then uses Photoshop to touch up the made-up side of the woman’s face to show that society demands absolute perfection, she said.

    After the portrait is completed, the participants submit personal statements describing how they feel about self-image and society, Tsuji said.

    Elizabeth de Gravelle, a sophomore secondary education major and one of Tsuji’s roommates, said she feels incredibly honored to be part of the Point Five Project.

    Tsuji said her initial inspiration for the project came about as she was applying makeup to her face.  As she practiced applying different styles of makeup to each side of her face, Tsuji said she starting to think about how makeup and the media affect the way women and girls see themselves.

    She said she began by taking photographs of herself and some friends from back home in California to see what kind of results she would get.  While taking pictures of her friends, Tsuji said she was able to get feedback on the photographs and explore how her friends felt about their self-esteem.

    Tsuji said her project differs from other multi-media campaigns promoting natural beauty because of the level of personal impact the photographs and the statements have on the viewers. 

    “Unless [you] actually see something and feel the emotions of the girls who have been affected by these things [beauty and society], no one’s going to make a change,” Tsuji said.

    Tsuji said she hopes to bring the project to a larger audience.

    “As of right now, I’ve mostly been focusing on high school and college-aged students because that’s one of the strongest times people are affected by media,” Tsuji said. “But that sort of stuff affects women of all ages-  it affects younger girls, too. If this takes off, eventually I would like to have it be a large number of people of different backgrounds, ages and cultures.”

    For more information about the Point Five Project, or to view more photos and personal statements, visit Tsuji's blog here.