What enables face-ing (Levinas).

A friend’s brother once suggested that I write “a taxonomy” of individuals because I seemed to have “something to say about everyone.” Taxonomy fascinates me, though I do not have the root-shoot system to pursue it successfully.

“Portraits” is a long-term, relatively unfocused project that registers “the encounter.” It tracks the moments when individuals demand face-ing, either through speech or actions, when they “register” in some way, cutting through the static of indifference we term the quotidian.

It is interested in quick shots, in moments of shared shame, when we look away because of all possible responses it seems kindest; moments when the social curtain parts, when a response is wrong, or uttered wrongly, when codes fail and messages transfer awkwardly.

In moments when one is surprised, when the social lubricant dries, and frottage becomes more palpable, even painful, leaving one raw, and sometimes in pain.

I’m not sure how long the project will take.

It is also a way of managing time, as time becomes increasingly precious—at some point in the semester, work changes the quantity and quality of writing. Yet, one needs other kinds of writing to add texture and style to more formal assignments.

Practically: each portrait can be no longer than 250 words. Given how time is stretching, only two portraits are permitted per month.

2 thoughts on “Preamble

  1. What a great project! I’m barely literate but I like pictures very much. I was happy to encounter John Berger’s and Jean Mohr’s “Another Way of Telling” before I discovered Flickr. It’s a wonder how we make meaning. Your technique of documenting encounters is so revealing. You might be interested to look at the National Portrait Gallery’s 2006 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition

  2. Thanks!

    I’m hoping it will capture what’s interesting about living here, about moving, about the dailyness of being. And thanks for the link. I’ll take a look.

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