The Next Time You See Somebody’s Portrait, Consider This
October 19, 2009 by rtwsenior
Back in May, 1992, I was working for a newspaper outside of Atlanta, Georgia and I made a discovery which I still use today. Here’s my journal entry describing this:
“I work at the newspaper and see a lot of mug shots for the business column about promotions and such. I’ve become fascinated with faces and what’s written there. This theory doesn’t work on photos of young people. Apparently, someone must season for about thirty or forty years for such a strange effect to occur. The older, the better. Here’s my theory, in a nutshell:
The two sides of a person’s face are sometimes different. Quite different. It’s pretty much impossible to see this when you are looking at the full face in the picture, and you’ll never see it if you are looking at the real person themselves. Portrait-type photos are the best to show this, when both eyes are, supposedly, looking straight at the camera. I say, supposedly, because when you cover one side, you frequently see one eye looking up or off to the side. Something you don’t notice on the full face view.
I think that I’ve stumbled upon a way to determine how that photographed individual might feel about the two dimensions of life – their social relationship with people and their internal relationship with God. I assume that the right side of their face (actually reversed in the picture, because they’re facing you) represents their feelings about humanity. That part is controlled by the left brain managing the practicalities and material details of thought.
So, to guess how they feel about the world, put a piece of paper over half of the face and study their right-side expression interpretively, listening to the impressions you are getting. Maybe: happy with life… suspicious… wouldn’t trust him a mile… filled with joy…and so forth. Your impressions are coming in from the expression in their eye, and the set of their mouth.
Then, move your paper and do this for the other side, their left half (to your right) which is controlled by the more intangible, spiritual, right brain. This side, I interpret as showing the person’s feelings about God. Frequently, I’ll find that eye looking slightly upwards, while the other one rivets the camera, directly. Or, I might get the impression that the person is mad at God, due to an angry glare coming out of that eye. Or else, there might be a smile, a glowing softness, or a confused, lost look.
This little parlor trick seems to be borne out and proved valid in all of these head shots that cross my desk. What fascinates me most is how LIFE shapes our face. And it’s not the action which happens to us; but our reaction to that action, which gets written across our face. Hardness, happiness, or a million degrees in between. Surely, this is nothing that we can control and we are never aware of it. It wouldn’t reveal itself to us in our mirror, and neither cosmetics nor plastic surgery can eliminate it, because it’s often the expression in the eye, as much as the drawing down or the curving up of the mouth.
Nowadays, I’m always looking for pictures to test this new theory on. I wish I worked in a portrait studio and had access to thousands of such pictures and a darkroom, so that I could cut the negative in two and match the identical sides together to see the full expression which that would make. My point is, that this is one more clue as to how life is writing on us all the time. And not just in wrinkles. It’s our attitude, attitude, attitude, that makes all the subtle difference and it gets written right there on our face. It can give away seemingly attractive faces and tell the emotion of that soul.
Is this the old Dorian Gray scenario? “