carlolevy | photography

changing the way you view the world | one photo at a time

Butterfly

Butterfly

(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)


Waterfall

Waterfall

(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)

Expressions

For my final series in portraiture, I decided to depart from using photography as a means of producing aesthetically pleasing or socially motivating images and instead wanted to use it as a scientific medium to explore a basic study of the human face as it expresses a range of expressions. My inspiration for this approach comes from the scientific works of the 19th century French neurologist Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne.

Duchenne sought to define the fundamental expressions of the human face by connecting each with a specific facial muscle or muscle group. Identifying thirteen primary emotions, Duchenne isolated the exact muscular contractions that resulted in each expression. In order to capture these expressions of his patients, Duchenne stimulated the facial muscles by applying faradic shock through electrified metal probes that were attached to different muscles of the face.

The importance of Duchenne’s research was his use of photography as a scientific medium rather than an artistic one. He firmly believed that the truth of his experiments could only be accurately and effectively captured and quantified by photography because his subject’s expressions were too transitory and brief to be drawn or painted. He argued: “Only photography as truthful as a mirror, could attain such desirable perfection.” His collected research entitled Mechanism of Human Physiognomy was the first publication on the expression of human emotions to be illustrated with actual photographs. During this time, photography was a rather recent invention, and there was a widely held acceptance that this was a tool that could concretely capture the “truth” of a subject or scene in a manner that other tools or mediums simply could not do.

While Duchenne’s research was in-depth and thorough, my attempt at studying the human face and its expressions is comparatively simple and basic. There are six different expressions that I photographed with a base or neutral expression as a comparative reference. These six expressions are: anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise. I used three main subjects: Subject-A is myself; Subject-B is my sister; and Subject-C is my friend. The parameters for each subject assigned to each expression is as follows:

For Subject-A, which is myself, I approached each facial expression with what I subjectively thought these expressions should be portrayed. In other words, I had a clear mindset of what these expressions should appear, and I transformed these cognitive pre-perceptions for the camera. These results are what I personally felt the other two subjects should mimic or closely approximate. For Subject-B, I prompted my sister to display these expressions using only the name of the expression itself and nothing else. What I captured was her immediate portrayals. Finally, for Subject-C, I supplied my friend no indication of the desired expression that I wished to capture. Rather, I prompted him with situational anecdotes that would hopefully produce the desired expressions.

Each image is a three-way comparison among my sister, my friend, and myself. Keeping in mind the methodology of achieving and exacting each expression, it is interesting to see both the similarities and differences in each face for each expression. The base or neutral expression is fairly straightforward: a deadpan gaze into the camera displays no emotion or difference. For anger, I immediately observed that in all three subjects, the eyebrows contort and frown towards the eyes, and the eyes themselves contract in size. I attribute this change to the fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system’s innate response to narrow the field of vision of a person when chemical changes arise from feelings of anger or aggression. I found it interesting to see the same eyebrow and eye shapes for the expression of disgust. Again, I believe that this feeling ties in with a person’s instinct to be on guard or on defense when he or she is in a situation of discomfort. The expression for fear is a departure from the previous two expressions. The eyes are slightly larger than compared to the neutral state. Subject-B is most interesting because she averted eye contact with the camera, perhaps indicating an aversion to the thought of something truly fearful. The eyebrows in all three subjects are no longer contracted but rather relaxed. The expression for joy bears a similar reduction in eye size and contraction, but this is only due to the contractions of the nearby facial muscles produced from the process of smiling. No eyebrow contraction similar to the anger and disgust expressions is noted, and Subject-B actually raises her eyebrows. The expression for sadness is quite interesting. The most obvious observation is the sunken displacement of the mouth and lips as compared to the neutral state. With the exception of Subject-B, the male subjects display a lethargic recess of the cheek muscles. The eyes of the male subjects, I observed, seem to display more emotion than their faces. Finally, for the expression for surprise, all three subjects share raised eyebrows, significantly increased eye size, open mouths, and a slight recessive head motion away from the camera.

This portraiture series was very interesting because this is the first time I employed photography as a scientific and objective tool rather than an artistic and subjective medium. This series reaffirms my respect, appreciation, and love of photography because it reemphasizes its versatility, adaptability, and usefulness. As for my first amateurish attempt, I am happy and pleased with the results. I hope to conduct more in-depth studies in the future.

(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)

To Audrey, With Love

For this portraiture series, I had to appropriate existing images and give my interpretation or version of those images. I decided to take a departure from my more serious themes in my previous series and wanted to have a more lighthearted and romantic approach. While I was trying to think of concepts, I saw a commercial for “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” on the television, and I was taken immediately. Audrey Hepburn’s beauty is timeless and unrivaled, and I took the challenge to appropriate her portraits. After researching many of her images, I decided to appropriate not the specific image compositions themselves but rather the intimacy, charm, and sweetness that defined Ms. Hepburn. While the poses in my portraits may or may not exactly mimic those of Ms. Hepburn, I sought to mimic the quiet and inviting attractiveness of her look, her eyes, and her personality. This one’s for you Audrey.

(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)


Eternal Sunset

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Eternal Sunset

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(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)

Hidden Beauty

(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)


"Here may be hardy, sweet, gigantic grow—here tower, proportionate to Nature, Here climb the vast, pure spaces, unconfined, uncheck’d by wall or roof." | Walt Whitman

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"Here may be hardy, sweet, gigantic grow—here tower, proportionate to Nature, Here climb the vast, pure spaces, unconfined, uncheck’d by wall or roof." | Walt Whitman

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(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)


"Nor yield we mournfully, majestic brothers, We who have grandly fill’d our time; With Nature’s calm content, and tacit, huge delight." Walt Whitman

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"Nor yield we mournfully, majestic brothers, We who have grandly fill’d our time; With Nature’s calm content, and tacit, huge delight." Walt Whitman

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(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)


"Go gentle … into the green." | Charles de Lint

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"Go gentle … into the green." | Charles de Lint

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(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)


“Stand still. The trees ahead and bush beside you are not lost.” | Albert Einstein

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“Stand still. The trees ahead and bush beside you are not lost.” | Albert Einstein

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(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)


“One generation plants the trees, and another gets the shade.” | Chinese Proverbs

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“One generation plants the trees, and another gets the shade.” | Chinese Proverbs

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(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)


“The mountains are calling and I must go.” | John Muir

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“The mountains are calling and I must go.” | John Muir

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(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)


“I have climbed several higher mountains without guide or path, and have found, as might be expected, that it takes only more time and patience commonly than to travel the smoothest highway.” | Henry David Thoreau

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“I have climbed several higher mountains without guide or path, and have found, as might be expected, that it takes only more time and patience commonly than to travel the smoothest highway.” | Henry David Thoreau

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(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)


“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.” | Blaise Pascal quotes

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“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.” | Blaise Pascal quotes

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(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)


“To rid ourselves of our shadows - who we are - we must step into either total light or total darkness.” | Jeremy Preston Johnson 

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“To rid ourselves of our shadows - who we are - we must step into either total light or total darkness.” | Jeremy Preston Johnson 

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(Source: Flickr / cclevy_photography)