Facial recognition systems, which attempt to automatically recognise an individual in a picture based on coordinates of facial features, date back to the ‘60s. The implications of developing the technology at that time, prior to mass available digital photography and the near-instant distribution of information through the internet, seems relatively innocuous when viewed through today’s lenses, even a novelty. Now, the stakes are of an entirely different order.
In his series Face Off, Japan-based photographer Jacob Burge (1981, UK) expresses the complex question of identity privacy in a world where surveillance is a given and consent is an afterthought. Noting that there are now systems in place that record and store our image without the need of cooperation, or even awareness, Burge works with images taken in public places, performing a careful dissection of his subjects’ facial features. Broken down into parts, the individuals become symbolic of the data contained on their faces.