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Monday, 5 March 2012

Facial Recognition and Mishka Henner

So I've been writing about Mishka Henner and his latest book, Less Americains for the BJP. It's the one where Henner takes the 83 images of Robert Frank's classic and then deletes part of them. There is so much going on in what he is deleting that I've gone from Blank Space to White Space to Negative Space and then come back to the hair and the hats that he leaves in and the faces that he takes out.

He takes all the faces out, doesn't leave one - and in a strange way that ties in to Facial Recognition - and all the apps, 3D imaging, tagging, social networking and surveillance that comes with it.

The top picture is from an early Facial Recognition paper by Richard Phillips, the findings of which say that essentially we recognise heads better than faces and the complete head+face set about two times better than either one on its own.

Which leads on to so much photographic work, but especially Ken Ohara's One, a series where only the face is shown - everything else is lost and as a result people start looking the same, especially when you look at the book where 500 portraits come one after the other. It's often said that one shows how much we look the same, but rather it should be how much we see each other as the same when we take away the hair, the body, the clothes. It's about how people see, not what people look like.

James Mollison used a similar strategy for  James and Other Apes, but here the apes start looking different, they become more recognisable when stripped of the rest of their heads, or perhaps just because they are from different species. It's the opposite of the cross-race effect, the idea that one recognises people of the same ethnic group better than those of a different ethnic background.

And then there are the many people who can't recognise faces at all, who have prosopagnosia - Chuck Close is one of them, that's why he paints the way he paints, and so is Oliver Sacks.

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