Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Sea of Faces

I've been looking at faces a lot these past weeks - faces from the internet, of famous people, profile pictures of the less so on social media, my own from times past and present... I don't know why this has happened but before I can catch myself I see that many minutes have passed in silent and absorbed contemplation of the pictures that I click on, zoom in on, open in applications so that I can get a less cluttered view...

Perhaps I am trying to see what time does to a face when it freezes it for eternity in a particular pose, at a particular time of day, in a particular light, in a particular mood, in the throes of a particular self-absorption. Most of these pictures are of people staring directly at the camera, some of them have the air of being caught out, but most are of those investing something of themselves in the moment, aware that the here and now is when they are being captured for eternity while attempting to infuse the moment with a sense of timelessness, as if the moment will be a salve for the relentless toil time takes on the self-image.

Exoticism, fetishism, escapism, voyeurism... are terms that come to mind when I think of what I am doing, but even so, these are terms that are only ever relative to a subjective sense of moral outrage and what relativity can extend to my quiet reflection on the face of another that is available in the public domain, and that for all intents and purposes is being advertised in the service of the promotion of a personal brand?

So, what exactly is the purpose being served here? Comparison, perhaps? Here I am, a middle-aged parody of the man I once thought I was, stolidly plodding along through the opacity of a recent civic relocation, trying to keep my head above water in the face of recurring challenges to a personal sense of well-being, during a phase in my life when I should have already been paying back mortgages and planning vacations two and three years into the future, and not wondering where the next year's school fees are going to come from. Comparison, in these circumstances, is only ever going to be disastrous to my continued functionality as a father, husband, and citizen, and therefore is a moot point.

Could it be due to something darker? That I am trying to infuse in the faces of anonymous others something of my tottering belief in the shared sense of the human? That the shattered state of the world today can somehow be overcome by a preoccupation with form, and aesthetic, and imbued character and personality. That the face of another is a giant outlined slate that I can write my fantasies on; of origin, and ambition, and mobility, and dreams. Tenuously holding on to a personal belief that the world consists of faces that are representative of more than just the exigencies of personal advantage, and self-aggrandising, and terror, and fear, and the darkest manifestations of our collective flaws and follies.