Chica Barbie is an unconventional look at the conventions of beauty and how one society copes with adversity.
The beauty pageants of Colombia are legendary and ubiquitous, with over 400 pageants annually spilling across the poverty and violence-plagued country. This in-depth photographic project illuminates the Colombian obsession with a formulaic physical beauty, revealing a relationship with the contests which is surprisingly complex.
Carl Bower's photographs provide insight into this national obsession. He has traversed the country, from training schools and backstage preparations in small towns to the crush of crowds in the weeks-long Miss Colombia pageant, photographing the forces which define and reward a fixed feminine ideal. His penetrating black-and-white photographs reveal the pageants as an essential escape whose rewards are bittersweet.