Flipping through photos

Have you ever noticed as you’re flipping through photos that there are those people who seem to produce the most consistent face every time? a beaming smile, a grin, perhaps a face made over and over again? Some of these people are photogenic. They earn that accolade from their talent for producing consistent results when captured on film. These people simply never look bad.

What is it that differentiates these people from the rest of us? From those of us who seem to suffer bad hair days, blank expressions, the look of somebody half-stoned or just aroused from sleep? Most of us are caught in between expressions when the flash commits us to emulsion. The lucky few never seem to blink.

Faces are in constant motion. It’s said we can produce over 5,000 different facial expressions. Photogenic people put on their best face for the camera. They stop movement in its tracks, step out of their physical and social setting and into a position masked for the camera. Photogenic people, and I’m jealous of them for it, have internalized the look of the other and are capable of putting their own faces on pause. What’s strange about this to me is that most snapshots are meant to capture a situation, an event, a now. And yet the best-looking people in snapshots are those who know how to step outside of now and produce an ever-lasting face. Is this how we become our technologies? By internalizing the permanence of photography? Is this how our media stars produce sound-bites? Is the art of the artifact knowing how to produce one for the medium?

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