This past March, National Geographic Magazine released a portrait that will be forever burned into our memory: it was of a "typical" human face. The Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing had collected photos over a course of 10 years and then had digital artist Joe Lertola create a composite image. Earth's seven billion had been reduced to one: a 28-year-old Han Chinese man. (Watch this video for more info.)
Photographer David Trood had a similar idea. Whereas National Geographic found the "typical" human face, however, Trood would find the "average" one. His Face of Humanity project would be an epic journey that would introduce him to thousands of different people from all around the world. Motivated by the realization that we are all one and that our collective being could be represented photographically, Trood developed a method of photographing people so that their eyes were precisely placed. That way, he could easily merge the photographs. Trood made sure he was covering the representative proportion of the world's ethnic demographics and then created some incredibly interesting composites.
Here's his story.
100 Danish People
"The first 'Face Of' image that I ever made was 100 Danish people from a quantum healing seminar I was assigned to cover. My job was to get portraits of the ten guest speakers. At a point through the seminar one of the guest speakers, a sound therapist from USA, ask the entire audience to say together the words 'We are one.' It sounded incredible. The whole auditorium in the Royal Danish Hospital University resonated with one human voice coming from everywhere and from everyone.
"Immediately I was inspired to make an image of the face of that voice. I consequently photographed as many of the participants as I could during the rest of the day. A simple portrait, almost exactly like a passport photo actually. The only thing I ask all of them to do was to make sure they had their mouth closed, looking at eye level directly at the camera lens with a slight smile...straight in.
"I then merged 100 of them together in Photoshop, giving them each 1% opacity, aligning each pair of eyes so they lay precisely over each other one layer at a time. The result really astounded me. It looked very peaceful, gentle and trusting. It was as though that face represented all the good aspects of all the people in the photo."
100 10-Year-Old Danish Kids
100 14-Year-Old Danish Kids
"Following the first image I then went and did a similar experiment at my children's school. Both the 4th grade and the 8th grade. Dividing the number of subjects by 100 gave the percent opacity each image needed to give all portraits an equal part of the final image."
100 Faces of Greenland
100 Faces of Thailand
"The face of Greenland and the face of Thailand are both using 100 men from selected areas of those countries."
Male Face of Humanity
Female Face of Humanity
"During this time I was writing a book about my life as a photographer. I was trying to write about and illustrate the source of my creative insight. As the answer to that question was 'everywhere and everyone,' I decided to try and put a face to the voice that we all go around with. Some of us can hear it more clearly than others but I think everybody has some sort or another inner reflection. For me the face of humanity represents that entity within the human race.
The above two Faces of Humanity are individually made up of 670 men and women. "One ten millionth of the world's population is in that face," Trood says. "The correct demographics have been used so the people selected for the image represent a percent of the total world racial demographics in 2009 i.e 23% Chinese, 18% Indian, 15% African and so on."
Trood calls it "the most reliable portrait of what the average composite 'Face of Humanity' looks like to date."
Watch this video to see how it all comes together. Trood also released an eBook called At Any Given Moment that follows his incredible journey.