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ASK · NOT · WHAT

“THAT’S NOT MY FACE,” the man would say, standing in front of the mirror and feeling his cheeks with his hands.1 The era was the early ’60s, and the speaker was not Frankenstein’s monster but the president of the United States, John F Kennedy. Several years earlier he had been treated for Addison’s disease with injections of steroids, which had caused his thin face to round out and gain the handsome fullness that made it so impressive. Truly, it was not his face; it was a face that had been molded not only by pharmaceuticals but by the chemical baths in which beholder and beheld are swirled together in the photographer’s darkroom—it was our face, the face of our fantasy the face we wanted to see projected as a larger-than-life image of ourselves. It was a face destined to endure immense quantities of what Samuel Beckett has called the “anguish of perceivedness,” the horror of being seen.

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