Artist Mike Mike's photography project, "The Face of Tomorrow," makes some interesting decisions about how to group people.
By now you've probably heard of the South African artist Mike Mike's new photo project, "The Face of Tomorrow." The concept is simple: Mike travels to a country, takes photos of many different faces in that country, and then makes a composite face based on the shapes and contours of all the faces in the photos he's taken prior, thus creating an "average face" for the given nation. It sounds cool—and sometimes it looks cool, too—but it's also pretty racially problematic.
Though Mike makes sure to touch on people of all races, it's interesting how he goes about taxonomizing the different ethnicities. For instance, though he finds it necessary to distinguish between English women, Welsh women, and Irish women, he seems to have no reservations whatsoever about lumping all of West Africa into one frame. West Africa is, in fact, a designation that could include upwards of 15 countries, each of which is distinct in language, history, and, yes, skin-tone. Many people don't fathom the immensity of Africa; Mike is one of those people.
Beyond that, it's strange that Mike chose to give a designation to African Americans if the point of his project is, as he says, to "address the effects of globalization on identity." If the goal is to see how the world's disparate faces are melding into one, why not include African Americans in the American category, which, in this rendering, doesn't even exist? By 2050, the theory goes, America will be a "majority minority" nation. Why not represent that truth?
Mike's project seems to be on the right track, and we certainly think his heart is in the right place. But he's got a lot of questions to ask himself before moving forward. All of West Africa would appreciate it.