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Today I talked to Jessica Helfand about her new book Face: A Visual Odyssey (MIT Press, 2019)
Helfand is a designer, artist, and author. She’s taught at Yale University for more than 20 years, cofounded Design Observer, and has had additional roles at a variety of institutions ranging from the American Academy in Rome to the California Institute of Technology.
We’ve always visited churches and museums to gaze at faces. So what’s now changed? Today, about two billion images get uploaded daily to social media – of which nearly 100 million are estimated to be selfies. As Daniel Boorstin presaged in his seminal 1962 book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, we’ve become consumed as a culture by our own self-reflections. In this episode, Helfand guides listeners through everything from caricatures (i.e., loaded portraits), to Facebook and selfie-sticks hitting the mainstream in 2006, to how now every third photograph taken by people from 18 to 24 years of age is of themselves. From the question of who’s behind the camera to othering as part of biased behavior, this episode has it all as, indeed, do faces as an enduring centerpiece to how we judge ourselves and others.
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