Last week's focus on outer space raised many questions with regards to the future of space exploration, but does anybody wonder what extraterrestrials think about Earth? How would humans look like to another species? Would faces and nations be distinct from one another, or would every face from every man look the same? Ken Kitano, takes an interesting approach to this question through his project "Our Face".
Ken Kitano has been a professional photographer for almost 20 years. His portfolio includes City Flow and Fusion, a visual documentary of his own native Tokyo using long shutter speeds to blur away the passage of time to reveal the city underneath. His latest work actually stemmed from this previous work in an unconventional sense.
"Our Face" focuses on the people, rather than on the infrastructure of the city. Unlike the usual portraiture style practiced these days, Kitano takes upwards of 20 frames on as many subjects and blends them together, creating a new but familiar portrait.
The project was in response to the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the Tokyo Subway Gas Attacks both of which occurred in1995. In the aftermath of these tragedies, Kitano felt compelled to document the people around him. As the project took hold, Kitano traveled to other places around the world to get a visual statement of different groups.
In order to get the strange mosaic result of his photographs, Kitano may select up to 70 people in a particular category to pose for him. Thus, his series includes everything from high school students in Japan to port workers in Bangladesh to religious devotees in India.
The resulting portraits are quite random, but at the same time what emerges is something that you would have expected from each group; the bubbly enthusiasm from school children, the strong emotions dancing on the faces of actors and performers, the stoic calm in Buddhist monks, etc.
One interesting observation Kitano noticed in showing off his photographs is that some people immediately notice the differences in the faces, while others focus on the similarities between the subjects. It's as if most people can be placed in two groups: one that sees that which divides society, and another that sees that which unites. Which group do you belong to?
This is Ken Kitano's website. His Our Face project, where you will find the face of every man (figuratively speaking, of course) is here. The images are collected in the book Our Face - Watashitachi no Sonzai.