Face: A Visual Odyssey (Hardcover)

Face: A Visual Odyssey By Jessica Helfand Cover Image

Face: A Visual Odyssey (Hardcover)

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An elaborately illustrated A to Z of the face, from historical mugshots to Instagram posts.

By turns alarming and awe-inspiring, Face offers up an elaborately illustrated A to Z—from the didactic anthropometry of the late-nineteenth century to the selfie-obsessed zeitgeist of the twenty-first.

Jessica Helfand looks at the cultural significance of the face through a critical lens, both as social currency and as palimpsest of history. Investigating everything from historical mugshots to Instagram posts, she examines how the face has been perceived and represented over time; how it has been instrumentalized by others; and how we have reclaimed it for our own purposes. From vintage advertisements for a “nose adjuster” to contemporary artists who reconsider the visual construction of race, Face delivers an intimate yet kaleidoscopic adventure while posing universal questions about identity.

Jessica Helfand is a designer, artist, and writer. Educated at Yale University, where she has taught for more than twenty years, she is a cofounder of Design Observer and the author of numerous books on visual and cultural criticism. The first Henry Wolf Resident at the American Academy in Rome, Helfand has been a Director's Guest at the Civitella Foundation and a fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation. She will be the artist in residence at the California Institute of Technology in the winter of 2020.
Product Details ISBN: 9780262043427
ISBN-10: 0262043424
Publisher: The MIT Press
Publication Date: November 12th, 2019
Pages: 280
Language: English
So telling the story of the face, Helfand makes clear, necessarily means telling the story of both personal and collective identity. The face—whether we like it or not—is absolutely connected to who we are and who we believe others to be…The thing about pictures of the face, as Helfand poignantly illustrates, is that the person taking them is almost always missing. The person telling the story—the portrait artist, the director, the member of the family with the camera who is least likely to cut off heads—is never in the picture. Helfand is less interested in the mechanisms, technologies, and infrastructures of facial recognition software and more interested in the artifacts and narratives they produce. Helfand's touch is deft and light, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about the intertwined anecdotes and theories of the face.—Public Books

Jessica Helfand's book reminds the reader that their face is a territory of both power and vulnerability. It is the first port of call to judge, categorise, diagnose, mock, shame, bully, legitimise, recognise, monitor. It can be doctored, discriminated against, adorned, hidden. 'Face' is as profound and complex as the theme it covers but it is also fun with its plethora of images, ideas and artworks.

WE MAKE MONEY NOT ART.COM

Helfand's visual odyssey nudges readers to look and look again at the faces of world leaders, immigrants, popular figures--even at the face they see in the mirror--to discern what they might reveal.

Shelf Awareness

Her ambitious history of facial representation delves into often conflicting aspects of recording, measuring, airbrushing, categorizing and otherwise judging faces. Considering tintype photography, digital selfies, mug shots, celebrity photoshoots, Polaroids and more, Helfand examines why and how humans capture their own faces and others', and the ways those images are used: analyzed, judged, manipulated, glorified.

Shelf Awareness

Beautifully designed and smartly written, this book is an unique view of the visage as image and beyond.

Steven Heller, Print

Helfand's interrogations are topical, thought-provoking, and often troubling. It is impossible to look away.

Curbed

What does the mug shot have to do with the selfie? With faces everywhere in our image-obsessed society, self-photographed and otherwise, Helfand's historical and critical approach helpfully zooms out.

New York Times Book Review