Photo Essay


Alissa Rachele /// Nuevas Fronteras SI /// Fourth Grade Teacher

Sometime in March I joined FACITY, becoming photographer number 130. At the time I was writing this essay, there were 257 photographers, hailing from 91 cities around the world, from Istanbul to Mexico City, from Tel-Aviv to Berlin, the city where it all started at the end of 2008. It wasn't until January of 2010 that this project became international, and it has grown rapidly since then.

Currently, there are 2168 faces, a new face being added every hour and a half. The top 5 cities according to the number of faces on FACITY are: Berlin, Rome, Munich, Leipzig, and Braga. Not surprisingly, Berlin has the most faces.

Not everyone is represented on FACITY. Naturally, Germany, with cities such as Munich, Leipzig, and Berlin at its center, has the most representation: photographers and faces submitted. Europe by far has the most representation. The Americas -- North, Central and South -- have few participants: some in the United States, few in Brazil, and the greatest number coming from Mexico. There is almost no representation from Asia or Africa.

Everyone should be represented.

My experience at FACITY has been rewarding and, at the same time, frustrating. I love doing portraits, and, through this project, I am exploring a new type of portrait. The type of portrait at FACITY, in the words of its founders, is "Close, direct, intime [intimate], naked, natural, genuine." The photographer and the person being photographed enter a very personal and intimate space in order to achieve the portrait. One can see this honesty on the faces of all those who have participated. This honesty makes very powerful, and beautiful, portraits.

Another reason why I became interested in FACITY is I had the desire to be a part of something bigger, joining a global effort, becoming part of a greater community.

Below are the guidelines that every photograph at FACITY has to follow:

1. Frontal position to the camera (no leaning head).

2. Open sharp eyes (focus on the eyes).

3. No smile. Natural facial expression.

4. Pure faces (minimum of make-up). Hair pulled backward (minimum of hair visible).

5. No clothing visible. No glasses, no jewelry (exception: piercings).

6. Partial head shot (refer to other faces).

7. Only indoor daylight. No artificial light sources. Clean background.

8. Aperture 2,8 with a 50 mm lens (or similar conditions).

9. Square format (at least 600x600 pixels).

10. Minimal processing (as realistic as possible).

Initially, it was very difficult for me to meet the guidelines: sharpness, direction of the light, color, etc. Through trial and error, I have learned how to take this type of portrait. There is very little wiggle room, I have found, with 1, 2, and 3. I have had a number of photographs turned down because they did not meet one of these three guidelines. I use a tripod and shoot in RAW format to give myself the most latitude. 4 and 10 are the ones that are more open to interpretation, providing the most flexibility.

Another thing that was very frustrating at first is the process and the amount of time it takes from uploading your portrait to the time it appears on FACITY. After uploading your portrait, it goes through peer review where other photographers vote on your portrait as to whether or not it follows the guidelines. Then, if approved, it is placed on the calendar the following week.

While I believe this process is very helpful and democratic, I have stopped using it effectively. You see, I was being very hard on the portraits of others. I found myself rejecting other people's portraits if they were less than perfect. I came to realize that most new photographers, myself included, were learning how to take this type of portrait. As with everything, there is a learning process involved. I have decided to vote "Yes" for every portrait I see because, in my opinion, it is more important that everyone is represented than to worry about whether a particular face has too much make-up, or there is too much hair or forehead.

Everyone should be represented.

At the moment, I'm concentrating on developing a style. At FACITY, there is a wide range with regards to how a photographer presents his portraits. Some portraits are very artistic and one can see a fair amount of processing, while other photographers capture everything in-camera, right down to the framing, and remain true to what was captured, presenting a raw portrait. In reality, most of us fall somewhere in between. As our way to perceive the world evolves, so does our photography and the particular way we express our experience through our lens.

I first learned about this project as I came across a photograph by Thomas Krausstitled fa(ce)mily #8. He has excellent portraits, especially of children. At this same time, I also came across the work of Mexican photographer Rogelio Pereda, whose work on portraits is outstanding. Their photographs inspired me to explore this type of portrait.

Having arrived at the very beginning of my journey, I hope that yours can soon begin. Document the city you call home, one face at a time, and join in a global effort to document the human experience in every city of the world.

Everyone should be represented.

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3 responses

  • Lon Casler Bixby

    Lon Casler Bixby   gave props (31 May 2010):

    Very niiiice series... Voted ;o)

  • Marisa Pellerin

    Marisa Pellerin (Deleted) said (31 May 2010):

    that is a very interesting would be a neat idea to see a book of facity

  • Yulia Yurasova

    Yulia Yurasova gave props (1 Jun 2010):

    love the idea!... vote!

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