Face paint project by Lester Woodward

The idea started whilst talking to Nina the owner of the Connect Cafe in Netherfield, she showed me an article in the Guardian about people painting their faces to avoid automatic camera face recognition and thought it would make an interesting photographic project.  We found it fascinating and decided to create a project where people paint their faces not to avoid recognition, but to help others understand what they want to express about themselves.

Nina tried to get a grant to fund the project, but cut-backs meant this didn’t work, so self-funding was the way albeit with some money allocated from the proceeds of a LGBTQ+ comedy evening put on by Nina. We were put in contact with a local face painter and put-up ads for people to model in the cafe. About 12 or 13 people wanted to join, all from nearby areas.

We made model release forms for people to say it was okay to use their pictures, exhibiting in local shops and published on the web or in related print. The form also indicated which flag they would like to represent them. We aimed to have the project ready for Netherfield Pride 2023.

The plan was simple. On a Sunday morning, when the cafe was closed to the public, people would come in to have their faces painted with a flag of their choice. We would go outside for a quick 10–15-minute photo shoot nearby, whilst the next “model” was being face painted. 

Thankfully, the weather was nice and Spencer helped me stay safe while I focused on taking photos. Afterward, I did some light editing and picked the best six pictures for each person. We printed smaller versions of these photos and then chose one to print larger, frame, and display at Netherfield Pride.

We also made a small magazine booklet with all the models’ pictures for them to keep.

Printing pictures was easy because I’ve done it many times. But making a small booklet “zine” a zine, was harder than I thought. I tried using the Blurb publishing tool in Lightroom but it was too expensive. I found another online company, used the lightroom PDF publishing and off I went.

I had to do some math to make the size the zine to make the pictures fit. I created the project name “IDENTITY”, created the cover in Photoshop and sent the pictures off to be printed. I was worried about the print quality, but when we got the 24 copies back, they looked great on silky paper.

So as the day arrives, mounting the framed images in the cafe.

The chosen images to be printed

And in situ

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