Facial paralysis occurs when a person is no longer able to move some or all of the muscles on one side of the face. Apart from a stroke, facial paralysis is almost always caused by:
- Damage or swelling of the facial nerve, which carries signals from the brain to the muscles of the face
- Damage to the area of the brain that sends signals to the muscles of the face
For the past 3 years, photographer Sage Sohier has spent time in a facial nerve clinic in Massachusetts capturing portraits of people with facial paralysis. His intention has been to make portraits that are psychologically powerful, visually intriguing, and that challenge conventional notions of portraiture. When looking at someone with partial facial paralysis, we are in a sense seeing two versions of the same face at once, with each side conveying different emotions.
This ongoing project is titled “About Face.” It offers a fascinating view of two expressions at once, while honoring the courage required for one to cope with medical afflictions. Sage hopes these pictures bear witness to the incredible courage required to deal with medical afflictions, especially when they affect one’s primary appearance. Even minor facial problems challenge and potentially diminish a person’s sense of self; the poise and inner strength that it takes to deal with this, while at the same time presenting oneself to the world, is remarkable.
“Most people I photograph are acutely aware of their imperfections and try to minimize them. Some have confided in me that, in their attempt to look more normal, they strive for impassivity and repress their smiles. They worry that this effort is altering who they are emotionally and affecting how other people respond to them. While most of us assume that our expressions convey our emotions, it seems that the inverse can also be true: our emotions can, in some ways, be influenced by our facial expressions.” – Sage Sohier
If you happen to be in New York, About Face will open at Foley Gallery on April 17th and remain until May 24th, 2013.
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