Anna Randal for Art-Sheep
Photographer Sage Sohier spent three months at a facial nerve clinic in Boston, interacting with patients with facial paralysis. Apart from a beautiful experience her stay in the clinic inspired the photographer, who took several powerful photos of patients seeking treatment for their conditions.
The project titled About Face is a series of photographs portraying people who are dealing with varying degrees of facial paralysis and face their disease with bravery. These people are not afraid to show their vulnerability and “smile for the camera” as if it is a part of their therapy.
The photographer’s experience and connection with these people were surely powerful, “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.”
Sohier’s intention was to present the medical afflictions of these people, while highlighting their strength. This is definitely an unconventional practice in portraiture, as the photographed faces are neither symmetrical nor styled. They are faces of beautiful human beings, that showcase their power of will and courage to stand in front of the camera. According to the photographer, there is also a very artistic quality to these powerful images, ” 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. Like gazing at a cubist painting, we observe multiple facets of someone in a single instant. As a visual artist, I find myself fascinated by the intensity of glimpsing two expressions simultaneously, a literal ‘two-facedness’ that mesmerizes by its terrible beauty“.