visualization: making faces exhibit

Facial Symmetry

An interactive exhibit to demonstrate the interplay between facial asymmetry and perceived emotions.

I designed this exhibit in tandem with research conducted with the Bass Connections: Art, Vision, & the Brain team. It was designed to complement the Making Faces exhibit at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

Click the left or right half of the original image to see it reflected across the midline



Chuck Close, Al Gore from the portfolio America: Now and Here, 2009. Printed and published by America: Now and Here, American. Digital C photographic print. Edition 94/100. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Ronald Francesco, 2013.15.1.3


Looking at Chuck Close's original photograph on the left, you may be struck by the strong symmetry and evenly, if somewhat starkly, lit image. However, on the right you can see how this perception of both the symmetry and lighting are skewed

Click the Left or Right side of the original image to reflect that half over the midline. This will produce an symmetric version of the face that significantly alters the tone and emotion of the original.

In each case, does the expression become more positive or negative? Viewers perceive negative emotions, such as fear, sadness, disgust, and anger, more readily on the left side of the face (the viewer's right field of view), and happier emotions on the right side. What happens to the emotional tone of the Al Gore when the subtle smile on the right half of the image is duplicated on the left half? In each manipulation, the emotional expression moves toward opposing dramatic extremes, demonstrating the precise and powerful balance Close created in the original composition.

site design: Jeff MacInnes