Face: A Visual Odyssey by Jessica Helfand


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SKU: 9780262043427 Category:


An awe-inspiring visual history of the face, from the didactic anthropometry of the late-nineteenth century to the selfie-obsessed zeitgeist of the twenty-first.

Jessica Helfand's incredible book Face: A Visual Odyssey is a kind of encylopedia of human faces as they have been represented and understood throughout various cultures and eras, from the nineteenth century up to the present day. Through an extraordinary catalogue of striking, diverse, mostly photographic images, Helfand poses a number of important questions about heredity, identity, the impact of science, photography, narcissism and mysticism on our understanding of what a face should or shouldn't be. 

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.

Helfand's monumental visual diary of face-culture, past and present, is one of those rare books that teaches us something vital about ourselves, and is testimony to the wild beauty, and the obsessive strangeness, of our species. 

280 pp. hardcover

18.9 x 2.82 x 25.88 cm

Published November 2019 by MIT Press

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