Face: A Visual Odyssey
The MIT Press, 2019
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.