Faces in all sorts of strange places

I want to thank reader, Andrew, for directing me to this wonderful photograph* by Roni Bintang of Reuters taken on November 18 showing a woman in Sibintun village, Indonesia, watching as Mount Sinabung spews ash. Sinabung threw a plume 8,000 meters into the atmosphere as thousands of residents sought refuge in temporary shelters, wisely fearful of more eruptions.

This is a great picture on many levels: yes, yes rule of thirds; foreground-background flip, the low perspective, and then wonderful twirling plume creating a great sense of motion.  But Andrew also points out the face in the smoke in the upper right.

This got me thinking about all the grade B horror movies I watched as a kid, which end in a fire and the face of the demon appears in the flames or fire.  Seeing faces in everyday objects, particularly nebulous ones like clouds and smoke plumes, is fairly common.  There is the now famous devil’s face in the flames of the World Trade Center.  And I’ve got a long going photo-project that I refer to as “Search for the Ents” where I photograph faces that I see in trees.  The best of which is “Old Tree Man.” My friend Michael D. and I have been trading these for years.  In the first instance you need only your imagination.  But photographically you often enhance – burn and dodge a bit to emphasize what is perceived.

This is such a common phenomenon that I think that it has more to do with the way in which our brains work than with the workings of demons.  Sorry, as a scientist, I tend to see nature as super rather than the supernatural.. Our eyes and brains are programmed to seek familiar structure, and the whole process functions by focusing or concentrating on a very limited number of code points.  We seek to create something of the nebulous.

*Actually, a number of you have been sending me interesting images and this is very helpful.  So please keep them coming!



This entry was posted in Essays on Photography.