“What do you think is the world’s most recognizable container of information? It’s the human face.” –John Chipchase, consumer behavior analyst
People don’t just recognize us over time because of our faces; from the very start, it’s the first and primary fact they use in trying to understand us. Yes, it’s mixed in with a lot of other data—sex, height, build, posture, gait, tone and timbre of voice, diction, dialect, clothing, style, complexion, general health, odor (or, hopefully, fragrance). But it’s the face that seems to capture our essence best.
And though there are certainly types of faces—a fact that often conjures that eerie sense of having seen a certain person (or her twin) before—there is also a quality about the human face that far more often distinguishes the person to whom it belongs with unique specificity. We can’t imagine anyone else looking exactly that way.
To know the face is to know the person. Our faces are the roadmaps of our lives—they reveal our lingering innocence and hard-won experience, our openness and suspicion, our capacity for laughter, our bitterness, our anxiety, our lightness of heart.
And yet the ability to describe the human face in fiction seems to be, if not a dying art, at least in a state of decline, even indifference. And given the face’s importance in our understanding of each other, this seems like a significant lost opportunity.
Why has this happened?