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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Virtual Aesthetics of Cosmetic Surgery: The Pleasure in Imagining the Body Morphed

  • Author(s): Cohn, Jonathan
  • et al.

Cosmetic Surgery, photography, and image manipulation have been intertwined since the inception of the medical field. The before and after surgery photo is central to the way surgeons communicate their goals to patients, who are overwhelmingly women, and to the public at large as a marketing tool. With computers and digital image manipulation programs, a third type of image has emerged—the simulated post-op photo. In this simulation, a photo is taken before a plastic surgery. The patient discusses with the doctor how she or he would like to look after the surgery and what parts of the body they would like to change. The doctor then takes the their photo and digitally manipulates it to the patient’s specifications—either by changing the shape of the nose, enlarging the breasts, decreasing the size of the stomach or any of a number of other digital plastic surgery operations. In the process of creating these images, patients are able to test out their potential new bodies and learn more about how plastic surgeons discuss and evaluate the human form.

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