The Power of the Face

The introduction to Oliver Sacks’ riveting article in the New Yorker last week confirmed my belief in the potency of the face. Sacks introduces his discussion with the assertion that “though we may admire arms, legs, breasts and buttocks, it is the face, first and last, that is judged ‘beautiful’ in an aesthetic sense, ‘fine’ or ‘distinguished’ in a moral or intellectual sense. And, crucially, it is by our faces that we can be recognized as individuals.” How insightful for a man who cannot easily recognize faces; our faces are representative of exactly who we are in so many important ways. It is via our facial expressions that we express joy, satisfaction and sorrow. It is the face that reveals fear and fatigue, elation and excitement. It is from the face that both tears and laughter flow. We cannot underestimate the power of the face.
But most importantly, it is what connects us to other human beings. When our loved ones are far away, or no longer even with us, it is photographs of their faces that serve to remind us of them and their presence in our lives. Just ask any service man or woman what they most prize when on active duty, and they will most likely answer that it is the pictures of family and friends that they return to time and again when so far from home. Photographs are connectors of sorts, they let us access the the faces of our nearest and dearest. In the recent movie, Get Low, starring Robert Duvall, the protagonist keeps a photograph of the face of the woman he once loved hanging in his home for thirty years. There are countless songs, movies, portraits and sculptures dedicated to the face and the resonance it has on our consciousness. It’s no wonder that chemistry is usually ignited by the amazing face!

Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau, Iman and David Bowie, Clare Danes and Hugh Dancy, New York City couple

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