1,345,000, or one in 44 people in the UK have significant disfigurement to their face and body (Changing Faces). Bibi Aisha was 18 when she was disfigured as retribution for fleeing her husband’s house in Oruzgan province, in the center of Afghanistan. Men arrived in the middle of the night, and at the orders of a Taliban commander, she was held down, had her ears sliced off and then her nose. (See blog post about Bibi Aisha)
“Face perception” refers to an individual’s understanding and interpretation of the face, particularly a human face. Facial disfigurement can be extremely traumatic and threatening to a person’s self-image and self-esteem. Although, this in itself raises an important psychological question as there is no apparent relationship between the severity of the disfigurement in terms of the person’s appearance and their psychological adjustment to it. British Photographer Steve Pyke describes his career-long fascination with faces as the study of Physiognomy, which is the assessment of a person’s character or personality from his or her outer appearance, especially the face. Acceptance of this study was practiced by the Ancient Greeks and has been used and questioned throughout history. What people’s faces looked like was used as a serious indicator of what the people were like who owned them. However, in the late 19th century it became discredited and rejected. Until 2009, when the NewScientist magazine reported that Physiognomy is living a small revival, researches around the world are re-evaluating what we see in a face, investigating whether it can give us a glimpse of someone’s personality or even help to shape their destiny.
My project will use the “selfie” (at time of writing there are 88,385,073 selfies onInstagram alone) to investigate in a very practical sense how these issues unfold and manifest themselves in a current meme.
(Screenshot of Instagram, 2014)
Using a mixture of found and collaborative images and taking inspiration from Australian artist, Anthony Luvera, I am going to create a series of assisted self portraits with people affected by disfiguration, taking careful consideration of recognizing the individual creators of the images. By introducing my participants to traditional portrait making, using medium format equipment, it will give them total control over the photograph, which is being taken.
This area of investigation builds on my interest of working and collaborating with people within communities to create something bigger with a narrative and meaning. The collaborations I plan on making are to inspire the participants and to give them a new sense of aspiration. My project has derived from past projects such as my picturing the body project, where my participant took part in the editing process of the photographs taken, I am going to build on this further and have my subject involved in the whole process. My project will work towards my longer-term goals of teaching. I aspire to work within communities teaching them about the visual arts in hands on environment, and how you can gain empowerment and use it to express yourself. My goal with these workshops will lead to projects, which will send a message and tell a story about the people within them.