When looking at the two close-up shots of a single person taken by photographer Dylan Hamm, you probably wouldn’t notice a big difference as, at first glance, they look very similar if not exactly the same. It gets more interesting when you start analyzing the features, slight changes in expressions or eyes that are caused by the special circumstances of this photoshoot. In one of the two passport-style portraits the model is dressed and in another – completely naked.
Being naked in front of a camera is probably a huge step out of the comfort zone for most people depending on their self-confidence level. And this was the creative plan of Dylan Hamm when in January 2016 he invited strangers to a photoshoot with a goal to capture how our faces can speak louder than words.
Can you tell on which photo the person is naked?
The artist didn't specify which side of the collage features the undressed person leaving the viewing experience as a guessing game. In one case, a dressed subject is on the right, in other - left, so the viewer decides solely by reading their faces. “I chose to mix up the faces so that it was more complicated for the viewer to decide, and would have to look closer to make their own judgments. I also decided not to say which is which, hoping to build conversation in a gallery setting amongst all viewers,” Dylan told Bored Panda.
This provocative initiative was a base for the ongoing project titled “Naked Faces” which derived from a question Dylan was contemplating for years – “what level of nonverbal facial expressions do we show without being conscious of them?” He was on a mission of proving that our faces reveal more than we would like to say or are aware of through comparing images of dressed and bare-naked people
The Vancouver-based photographer gathered volunteers willing to be photographed naked with a deal that no actual nudity would be captured or published. Then he took the before-and-after portrait of each participant with the purpose, as he explained, “to demonstrate the differing facial expressions between clothed and not, to physically capture evidence of the impact that something as simple as being naked can have on subtle facial expressions.”
He had the idea in mind long before he started but he waited until his girlfriend was comfortable with him seeing people stripping down in front of him. Why naked, you ask? “I chose for people to be naked, because I was looking for honest vulnerability from the models. I had them remove clothes and jewelry, and asked for them not to cake themselves with makeup beforehand. I also had them standing on a box, to give them a sort of platform to set onto, both physically and mentally” – the artist explained.
Instead of the awkward behind the scenes of this unusual set, we get to see the honest reaction of a person through the unconscious micro expressions. “The approach and reaction to the act of getting naked varied from laughing, yelling and making jokes that reaction was rarely linked to the results captured,” – Dylan said. The results of the experiment ranged from very subtle to contrasting non-verbal reactions. From a slight smirk or barely noticeable spark in the eyes to blushing and laughing – each person had a unique emotion written on their face.
“I could hear people talking about how they felt while I was shooting. Some people were proud and excited, some people were nervous, but when they stepped into the room, some of their attitudes changed. Confident outside, but quiet and nervous inside, and opposite as well. People talking about uncomfortably, and then being loud and happy once it was over knowing they conquered the task,” – Dylan shared his observations during a whole day photoshoot in a closed off area.
He also noticed how the reactions to getting naked in front of Dylan differed from men to women: “There were women that were nervous, but then proud once they were naked, while there were men who I know that are very flirty and confident men, who had some of the most vulnerable reactions to being naked in front of me. Lots of mixup to what I had thought would happen.”
Although raised from a particular question, the project hasn’t found an answer. On the contrary, it inspired more questions that are yet to be explored with an ongoing project. “It has raised questions about gender stereotypes; the subconscious, and the way we change imperceptibly to ourselves and perceptibly to others,” – the photographer admitted.
Dylan plans to expand the project outside his circle of friends and acquaintances, furthermore, even outside the country. “My plans for this project is to take it out of the country and get more diversity in this work. Something in Europe, and Asia possibly. Get out of North America, and see the wider scope of my project. In a sense I would hope that it could bring people together noticing we are all on a spectrum of vulnerability.” – said the artist.