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Behind the Scenes of Turkey's $1B Hair Transplant Industry PDF Print E-mail
2015-11-20 00:48:00
Image Hair transplants are a $1 billion big business in Turkey, where there are around 350 clinics in Istanbul alone and some 5,000 people descend on the country each month to get a more luxurious head of hair. It’s a strange world, one that photographer Emanuele Satolli reveals in his riveting series Turkish Hair Farmers. He goes into operating rooms where bright lights illuminate scalps prepped for surgery, and into the streets where patients play tourist with their families afterward. “It’s very common to see men with bandages visiting museums, walking on the streets or eating in the restaurants,” Satolli says. “They are alone, with their wife and children, or with other friends all who underwent the operation. It’s very strange and interesting at the same time.” The procedure, called follicular unit extraction, costs between $1,700 and $2,000 in Turkey—an absolute steal compared to the $15,000 to $25,000 you’d pay in the US. It’s relatively straightforward: a surgeon harvests roughly 4,000 hair follicles from the back of the head, where hair is thicker, and inserts them into tiny incisions elsewhere in the scalp.

Satolli learned about the surgery earlier while visiting Istanbul earlier this year. He frequently saw men with gauze around their heads and wondered what had happened to them all. A friend told him they were simply getting a good deal on a head of hair. Turkish clinics, he explained, can provide the surgery cheaply because overhead like rent and salaries are so low. They draw thousands of patients each month, many of them from the Gulf region.

“When I realized that Turkey is the top country in the world for hair transplants and most of the patients arrive from Arab countries, I wanted to go deeper and meet these people to understand why so many really care about their physical appearance and in particular their baldness,” Satolli says.

The photographer met with several doctors. Most saw his project as a way to advertise their work, and some even asked patients if they’d be willing to be photographed. Of course, many refused. “It’s not easy to show, especially to the people who know you, that you are not happy about your personal appearance and you want to change it with an operation,” he says.

Satolli worked with four clinics early this summer. He used a Nikon D800 camera with a 35 mm lens, switching to a 24mm for wider shots. His photos are surprisingly intimate, capturing men as they wait to see a doctor, have their hair shampooed by a nurse, and lie sedated on the operating table. Many even take the opportunity to see the city, like the friends Satolli captured taking a night ferry tour of the Bosphorus strait.

For the most part, the operations seem to work. Many of the men return a second, third, or fourth time if their bald area is too large to cover all at once. (wired.com / Photo: Laura Mallonee / Emanuele Satolli)
Last Updated ( 2015-11-20 00:49:35 )
 
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