Here’s the plan for what I’ll be making for the commission. It’s emerged quite slowly. I’m generally surprised at the amount of time it takes me to develop work. I spend equal amounts of thinking and making. My process is a loopback between visual exploration of materials and mark making and returning to the question and what it is I want to convey. I don’t expect the viewer to be presented with a message, however it has to be what I want to communicate – how and whether this is received is another question.

I am working with five people who are protesters. I want to convey a breadth of reasons that people stand up in public to protest. These maybe school funding cuts, Brexit, Trump visit, climate emergency, women’s refuge closure, nuclear disarmament, Iraq war…

Each person can be involved as much or a little as they like, or as life allows. I have a consent form which states they will remain anonymous although the nature of the portrait may mean they are visually identifiable. The form states that they can withdraw their participation at any time – although if images of the made work have already gone online I am limited in removing all the links to the work. The form also states where their photographs are kept (non networked encrypted computer) and that they will be deleted after use.

I begin by taking a sequence of photographs of their head and shoulders. I say to them that they can be creating a movement which may say something they want to express, or it can be quite arbitrary.

A sequence of photographs are printed onto transparencies which are used to prepare a series of screens for screen printing. At this point they can get involved in choosing the sequence, and in the printing, if they like.

The screen printed images can be in different colours. They will be printed onto a lightweight Japanese (Kozo) paper. The paper is translucent when held up to the light, but despite its seeming fragility, it is quite strong.

The screen printed portraits will be selected, played with, and then layered and glued together. Again, they can be involved, or lead on this, if they like.

These portrait-placards will be taken into the public space where the they have protested and photographed with the placards held in front of their face. I hope that the light shining through the placard will create a liminal portrait.

The final work is both the portrait-placards and the photographs. The titles of the work will be each person’s protests (they could be long titles!). I hope to also include an audio piece featuring an expert on the human rights issues around facial recognition and a facial technology business developer.

NB. I will be paying for assistance from skilled and talented people for the screen printing (George Barron at Double Elephant Print Workshop), gluing paper (Alysa Freeman, recycled paper jeweller) and for the photography.


“Our vision of the future is a FRICTIONLESS SOCIETY – where your face is your secure method of triggering other multiple day to day events. There will be no requirement for keys to enter your house, space facility or car, no cash or credit cards necessary to pay for goods, no tickets needed to travel on trains, buses or planes, and no passwords or signatures required to validate who you are – just your FACE!”

I’m trying to pinpoint the reason for my automatic unease when I read this statement. Is it the natural kickback to a new technology that promotes convenience, such as my mild scepticism when I could ‘tap’ for purchases under £30, or is it something more?

Our face as a tool. It just doesn’t seem so simple. Our faces change through our lives. We age. And, on a day to day basis I’m sure I look different depending on my emotional barometer. Would it require us to always look the same, to remain ageless, to wear a ‘face’ of makeup that holds the key to our identity?

We say that the eyes are the window to the soul. When we look at a close friend to see how they really are, to see what’s really going on, what they’re not saying, it is their face we observe. Their body language may hold further clues, but these signals sit alongside their facial expressions.

Our faces are intimate parts of us. Looked at closely, they ‘talk’ to us about what that person is feeling and thinking. This is unlike any other part of our body.

Will using our faces as a tool to ease our daily lives, as data multiplied across corporate databases, render this intimate part of us one-dimensional and deplete a little bit of our soul?



Reading today about the case of Ivan Golunov, the investigative journalist who was falsely arrested (and has now, remarkably, been released and cleared of all charges), I find out that in Russia only single-picket protest is allowed.

Imagine that. No gathering or assembly. No Extinction Rebellion, no Reclaim the Night, no protest against education spending cuts.

In Russia protesters must stand at least 165 feet apart to qualify as a single-picket protest, or risk arrest.

On June 7th, the day after Ivan Golunov’s arrest, people queued to have their turn to protest against his arrest and imprisonment. There is more information and remarkable photos in this article by the newspaper Golunov works for. https://meduza.io/en/feature/2019/06/08/you-can-t-be-proud-of-a-country-where-this-happens

In the UK we have:

  • the right to freedom of assembly
  • freedom of thought, belief and religion
  • freedom of expression
  • freedom of association
  • protection from discrimination in respect of those rights and freedoms

These are in our Human Rights Act 1998 as enshrined in the ECHR European Convention on Human Rights.

Protesters also have protection from a legal framework: Data Protection Act 2018, Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. And, it is by virtue of Section 34 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 that there has been a Surveillance Camera Commissioner was appointed. More about the Surveillance Camera Commissioner role in the next post.


Following a two year trial by the London Metropolitan Police on using Live Facial Recognition (LFR) in their communities – the London Policing Ethics Panel has produced this final report..

Here’s the link so you can read it for yourself (its straightforward language and fascinating content makes it a feasible read)


And here are some of the parts that particularly interested me or chimed a note:

On the ‘chilling’ effect of LFR

We also asked survey participants whether they would be likely to stay away from events where LFR would be in use (a so-called ‘chilling effect’). Overall fewer than one in five respondents thought that they might stay away from events, but there was significant variation across sociodemographic variables. Younger people were much more likely to say they would stay away from LFR monitored events – 38% of 16-24 year olds compared to 10% of those aged 55 and over – as were people from Asian, Black and Mixed ethnic groups.

Additionally, it should be noted that in our interviews some commented that they would be more likely to attend LFR monitored events, as they would feel safer. p7


On the conditions that should be met in the use of LFR

LFR should only be deployed where the following five conditions can be met.

  1. It can be shown that the use of LFR offers more than marginal benefit to the public, sufficient to compensate for the potential distrust it may invoke. 
  2. It can be shown from trial data (and other available data) that the technology itself will not import unacceptable gender and racial bias into policing operations.
  3. Controls on use are sufficiently robust to ensure that each LFR deployment is appropriately assessed and authorised, when it is judged both necessary and proportionate to use it for a specific policing purpose.
  4. It can be shown that human operators will be knowledgeable about the potential injustices that may be caused by an inappropriate response to identification alerts, that they know how to avoid these, and are accountable for their actions.
  5. MPS and MOPAC develop robust governance and oversight arrangements that balance the technological benefits of LFR with their potential intrusiveness. These should meet the Home Office Biometrics Strategy’s requirement for transparency, take into account guidance from the Surveillance Camera and Biometric Commissioners, and compensate for the limited powers of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner to inspect, audit or enforce compliance.  p11. (those are my bold highlights)


On the inherent unknowingness of the impact of new technologies

“The use of LFR technology is in its infancy in UK policing. There are currently significant limitations in terms of how and where LFR might be used, and therefore the types of outcomes it might produce. But it is a defining characteristic of new technologies that their eventual reach is unpredictable, a characteristic which makes ethical assessment particularly challenging. We sought to be realistic in our ethical assessment by grounding it in LFR’s current capabilities, whilst also being attentive to the benefits and harms associated with a more highly developed version of the technology. Overestimating future benefits and harms “may well lead to a focus on scenarios that are morally thrilling but very unlikely” (Van de Poel, 2016) but some degree of ethical imagination is imperative. When novel technology is introduced it is relatively uncontrolled and its uses experimental, so it is hard to gauge its impact. By the time a technology is more established, it may be too difficult to halt its use irrespective of harms or negative effects. (Collingridge, 1982)” 

p17 (again, my bold highlights)