I tend not to include faces in my images. More often than not this leads to the observation that it would be nice to see the face, or why is everyone seen from behind?
I was reminded of this while spending time with The Art Book, Phaidon press, which contrasts the work of painters and photographers. Of course there are many examples that include faces, but there are also more than a few where the faces are obscured or turned away from the viewer. Eugene Boudin’s The beach at Trouville, Gustave Caillebotte’s Young Man at his Window, and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Juvisy, France are examples where faces were not necessary to convey what the artists wanted to say. In fact, including the faces would significantly change what the image is all about.
We are hard-wired to look for faces. Take any image and if there’s a face, you’re most likely going to see it first, and it likely will be what the image is about. Obscure the face and your interest shifts elsewhere perhaps where the person seems to be looking. Caravaggio’s Doubting Thomas, for example, we don’t see the faces but we know where everyone is looking and that’s what grabs our attention.
I explore spaces that are mostly empty. Sometimes I’ll include a person or two but seldom any faces and that’s because I don’t want the individual to become the story. Instead, the person becomes part of the landscape, maybe even a design element. I’ll be honest and admit in the beginning I didn’t include faces more for privacy concerns, their’s and my own as I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Over time however I came to see the value of excluding faces. Not everyone agrees with this and that’s okay. I know what I wanted to say and why I present things the way I do. I used to feel I was doing something wrong. Knowing what I wanted when I took the picture, i.e. shooting with a specific purpose in mind, makes all the difference.