Why We Choose To Shoot Faceless Imagery

Okay, so I get asked a lot of questions about why Terrence Drysdale and I rarely shoot my face for our Follow Me Away project. Believe it or not, we actually have a reason why we shoot a lot of faceless imagery and I wanted to write it down, once and for all, so you can reference it anytime you want.

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The reason we mostly shoot faceless imagery is because I have pretty epic hair that I have been growing for almost 9 years. Yeah, okay, you got me! That isn't the reason but having long hair helps, right?

When we first started shooting together, we didn't go in with the concept of shooting mainly faceless photos. That part was quickly born on its own and we came to embrace the idea. Many successful local photographers cautioned me that if I was to "make it as a model" I would have to diversify my portfolio and that agencies and companies certainly wanted to see my face. I obviously didn't listen.

Here's the thing, when you see a face, you are automatically swayed how to feel by the emotions of the subject in the photo. If a little girl is crying, your brain automatically tells you to feel sad for her. If someone is smiling, your brain automatically sways you towards joyful feelings.

Take this photo of me at Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy:

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This is a rare Follow Me Away photo showing almost my entire face. When I look at this picture, I automatically begin to think that the subject is experiencing a sense of either wonder, like she just saw something magical, or trepidation, like she is unsure. Our brains have already made this decision and now the photo, although beautiful, becomes familiar and makes it easier for us, as the viewer, to move on to the next image.

Now, take this photo of me at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland:

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This photo is a fantastic example of the use of faceless imagery you see woven throughout our work. Unlike the Florence photo above, I have no idea what emotions the subject is experiencing. Is she mourning the loss of someone dear? Is she waiting on the arrival of a lover, back from the sea? Is she depressed and thinking about jumping? Perhaps she is a bride who was left at the altar or even ran away herself! Maybe she is having a fantastic day and is just swatting a bug out of her hair.

With only partially exposed or faceless images, there is no way for us, the viewer, to know what the subject in the photo is really thinking of feeling. We can make our best guess, but even then there are a myriad of other possible options that could also fit the situation.

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The truth is: people fear what they cannot see or understand

Humans see a face one time and automatically associate it with something familiar. Why do you think big add campaigns such as Progressive's "Flo" [American Insurance company..look it up!] are so popular? As a viewer, you see a face and associate it with a familiar feeling.

On the flip side, people tend to fear or shy away from what they can't see or understand. The dark, different cultures, opposite ways of thinking and even vampire bats are all things humans are unfamiliar with and are often the cause of controversy.

People prefer things they can understand and identify with and we love to push our viewers out of their comfort zone by shooting a lot of images shrouded in mystery. When people come to view our work, they are used to seeing a handful of faceless imagery but start to get anxious when that is the vast majority of our work. We feel that this stems from human nature's innate desire for familiarity and comfort in things they understand.We want you, as the viewer, to do a little extra mental work when looking at our photos and challenge yourself to see all the different possibilities each image may offer.

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That being said, yes, of course we change it up from time to time and showcases faces because we can't have our images getting stagnant and boring! Just like everyone else, we love to have a good mix in our work, but you will see that faceless or partially exposed features is a common thread in Follow Me Away's photos.

So in summary:

We like mystery
We want to push our viewer's out of their comfort zones
We love telling stories through landscapes
We don't think our images should be confined to just a few emotional possibilities


How do you feel about our concept of faceless imagery? I always love to hear constructive criticism! How does it make you feel that it is harder to emotionally identify with our photos? Let us know in the comments!

This post was originally published on Follow Me Away

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