Abstract Photography and Facial Recognition

Summary – Have you ever looked at a cloud formation and seen a face? The “man in the moon”? Well, if you do enough abstract photography you’ll see faces pop out every once in a while. Why??


Recognizing faces is important to humans

Parts of our brain are devoted solely to this task

So our brains “are wired this way”, but why?

It’s an evolutionary development for survival 

Recognizing friend versus foe is paramount



A Bowl of Vegetables – or is it

Depends on your point of view

Roll your mouse over the image

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The Vegetable Gardener

Giuseppe Arcimboldo (c. 1590)


When data enters your vision system, the brain is “wired” to

Quickly recognize these four elements

Because – your life may depend on it!

 o    o



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However, the wiring is orientation dependent

The next orientation of the identical four  elements

Doesn’t trigger “face” in your brain

As strongly as the first orientation

This is what’s behind the Vegetable Gardener



 o    o

The realism with which the four elements is presented

May help differentiate your friends Mary & John

(and will take a bit longer), but

“Alert! There’s a face! Not sure who, but be ready to flee!!

Happens quickly & automatically without

You actually “willing it to happen”


Does anyone else see this face in Friday’s abstract example?

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How about this image from the surface of Mars?

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Do you need more convincing?

Role the mouse over this one


You’d be sad, too

Every time I looked at this in the past

I sew the face and

Wondered how I could use a photo of it

Now I know 😉

And how about emoticons – :o)

I think the internet evolution has

Evolved our brains to

Recognize side-ways faces 😐  😉


An entertaining interactive site


This post is a different take on facial recognition than

Recent news articles

On government facial recognition research

For identifying faces in crowds

This relates to the “Is it John or Mary?” question

Step 1 in our brain is to recognize a (potential) face

Identifying that face from all of the faces we know

Goes beyond the automatic “potential face alert”


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