Unspeaking Likeness: Arne Svenson’s photographs of facial reconstruction sculptures

Arne Svenson, Unspeaking Likeness #4, 2005. © Arne Svenson, Courtesy Julie Saul Gallery, New York

Arne Svenson’s Unspeaking Likeness is an unnerving photographic series of forensic facial reconstruction sculptures; ones that were commissioned by various law enforcement agencies and used to establish the identity of victims of suspected violent crime whose soft tissue facial features have been obliterated either by trauma or the passage of time.

Svenson travelled across the USA and Mexico photographing these objects, treating them as real people whom he was taking a portrait. "The point of focus was the eyes; the rest of the face was allowed to fall out of focus so as to better speak to the anonymity of the victim and the malleability of their existence," explains Brooklyn's Cooler Gallery, where the series will be on display until 2 January 2018.

"First and foremost in Arne Svenson’s practice is to seek out the inner life, the essence, of his subjects, whether they be human, inanimate, or something in between. He uses his camera as a reporter uses text, to create a narrative that facilitates the understanding of that which may lie hidden or obscured. This narrative, at times only a whisper or suggestion, weaves throughout his divergent body of work."

Self-taught with a background in special education, Svenson has exhibited extensively in the United States and Europe and his work is included in numerous public and private collections. In 2016 he received the prestigious Nannen Prize for his project The Neighbors. Discover more at arnesvenson.com.

Main image: Arne Svenson, Unspeaking Likeness #4, 2005. © Arne Svenson, Courtesy Julie Saul Gallery, New York

Arne Svenson, Unspeaking Likeness #7, 2005. © Arne Svenson, Courtesy Julie Saul Gallery, New York

Arne Svenson, Unspeaking Likeness #7, 2005. © Arne Svenson, Courtesy Julie Saul Gallery, New York

Arne Svenson, Unspeaking Likeness #9, 2005. © Arne Svenson, Courtesy Julie Saul Gallery, New York

Arne Svenson, Unspeaking Likeness #9, 2005. © Arne Svenson, Courtesy Julie Saul Gallery, New York