Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Faces of tomorrow

This past weekend, I took my parents and brother out to dinner in downtown Palo Alto. My brother lives in New York, and so is no stranger to diverse urban populations; nonetheless, at one point he asked me, “Is it really the case that every child we’ve seen here has been part Asian?”

I thought so. “Why do you think I live here, man?” This is a place where my kids can default to the assumption that everyone is “half from” somewhere else.

Amazingly, despite this cultural variety and combination, no city in California shows up on The Face of Tomorrow, a project that creates composite faces that illustrate the ethnic makeup of different cities. As the artist explains,

In each city I take 100 photos of people in one specific location. I then divide these into male and female and from these I make a composite face. I am not interested in whether a person was born in that place, whether they are a citizen or whether they are simply a tourist. Everyone who is in that place represents the future potential face of that place. In this way the Face of Tomorrow is like a census. A snapshot of a place at a moment in time. The present and the future.

Of course, 100 people isn’t a very big sample size, and the “face” can be skewed by location: in a shoot outside the Tate Museum in London, “[t]here were no West Indians nor any Africans although both these groups are well represented in the larger population,” and “over half the people were tourists – primarily from Europe and North America.” Still, it’s a very interesting concept.

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  1. Is it just me, or are the “composite” faces much better-looking than the actual individuals used to make the composite?

  2. I hadn’t noticed it, but you’re quite right! Weird….

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