'So impossibly handsome, he fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Even the lovely nymph Echo could not manage to tempt him from his self-absorption. Eventually, he fell into the pool due to his obsession with himself. His name lives on as the flower into which he was transformed and as a synonym for those obsessed with their appearance.'
The story of Narcissus is a fable as old as time. While continuing to influence our relationship with others, our perception of beauty and the self, it teaches us that those who are engorged by their own vanity inevitably fall victim to similar fates as Narcissus (even if their death isn't caused by falling into a lake).
Narcissism has never been a desirable trait, nor am I saying it should be. Even so, why does history teach us that caring about your image is a damning thing? When our image is documented - which it often is for security reasons - it becomes the most salient pass we have. With it, we can travel across borders and access our phones without lifting a finger. Nick Knight's first editorial with Kate Moss was even filmed entirely through CCTV cameras in 1995, preluding to the technological boom of the 21st century. If technology relies on our appearance so much, then why shouldn't we?
Counteracting society's anguish with those who obsess over appearance, some have dedicated their whole lives and careers in pursuit of beauty. Using make-up as a tool for infinite power, professional make-up artists choose to devote themselves in the name of seeking perfection, making a living by making us beautiful. But why is this innate desire or want to be beautiful wrong? Why is it so wrong to be beautiful, and why do we always think beauty equals perfection? Applying make-up to change appearance is some serious real-time magic. Yet, sometimes, from time to time, fashion stumbles across the antichrist; a person who's armed with all the principles of a make-up artist, but make-up - at least in the traditional sense - is nowhere in sight. Welcome Inge Grognard, the latest subject in our Transformative series. For those who don't know, Grognard uses everything other than traditional make-up to assist her skill in shaping, moulding and morphing the face. 'Serge Lutens. is he the antichrist for you?' Nick Knight asks Grognard at the beginning of the series' third episode (Lutens' signature style involved washing models in white paint then using them as a blank canvas for his ideas, literally) 'he was someone who inspired me a lot when I was very young', Grognard asserts, rather matter of factly. 'I still remember the images he did for Dior. He had a whole universe and did everything himself, but there's also a type of darkness in his images', one that Grognard, who believes raw emotion extends itself to beauty, emphatically relates with.
Redefining traditional codes of beauty since the 1980s - a period when Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana's glamorous overload dictated the styles of the period - Grognard was working hard to carve her own path, taking inspiration from everything but emulating nothing. The marks and crosses she's transferred onto many a model's face over time almost act as her own protest against glamour make-up. 'There are a lot of things inside me that I want to bring out that are reactions to things happening in life and in the world... I feel a lot'. Surely this should be the sentiment of any successful make-up artist who works with exterior aesthetics?
Grognard's work fights to prove beauty isn't just external; it's internal, too. Beauty has never been 2D, so why do we keep pinning this fascination to it? The best make-up artists have never given much care to looks; that's not what true beauty is about. It's multi-layered, as is everything when it comes to fashion or life, even. Who knew beauty wasn't just skin deep? True beauty lies in the uniqueness of human beings, and as Grognard's work has made it clear repeatedly, it's something that lies within. It's a passion. It's character. A love for something; these qualities make up beauty; aesthetics are only a tiny part of it all.
After all, does beauty always have to be beautiful?