Intimations explores the neurological disorder prosopagnosia (‘face-blindness’), which is characterised by an inability to recognise familiar faces or distinguish between unfamiliar ones. The condition is attributed to damage in the neural systems that control perception and memory and it is unrelated to the visual systems.
The human brain dedicates more space to facial recognition than any other visual object – psychoanalysts believe that the human face is the first object of significance for the infant. Believed to affect 2% of the UK population; the lack of familiarity experienced by people with prosopagnosia can have profound psychosocial impacts on their lives, as facial recognition is considered vital for healthy social functioning.
For most, facial recognition is usually a subliminal process – Freud used the photographic apparatus as a metaphor for the unconscious mind, stating that ‘every psychical act begins as an unconscious one, and it may either remain so or go on developing into consciousness, according to whether it meets resistance or not’. For Freud, the photographic negative is redolent of the unconscious mind; it receives the information – where it is stored -yet, it is not until this negative is developed that the information is brought into consciousness. It is with prosopagnosia where this ‘resistance’ is met; the sensory perceptions pertaining to facial recognition are never developed or transferred into consciousness.
I have explored how the medium can be used to represent an intangible subject matter and to convey the imaginary realm of the human psyche. Through frequent obfuscation, the photographic lens and process mimics the unconscious mind of those with prosopagnosia and at times seeks to challenge the oft-cited indexical nature of photography.