Till We Have Faces

The Story Behind These Photographs

Because the editor did not like the original title, CS Lewis found himself needing a title for his manuscript he had been calling “Bareface”. Then Lewis chose a title from within the manuscript. “Till We Have Faces”, refers to a line from the book where Orual says, “How can [the gods] meet us face to face till we have faces?” He defended his choice in a letter to his long-time correspondent, Dorothea Conybeare, explaining the idea that a human “must be speaking with its own voice (not one of its borrowed voices), expressing its actual desires (not what it imagines that it desires), being for good or ill itself, not any mask.”

When I thought about why C S Lewis chose Till We Have Faces it seemed to me that God, who knows us intimately, doesn’t need us to speak plainly, with honesty and clarity, before he can meet with us: something C S Lewis was clearly aware of. The same cannot be said as true when we seek to meet with him. Our biggest problem is we so often do not know what voice we are speaking with. We allow our thoughts to be clouded with the cacophony surrounding our everyday lives. We read the news without filter. We hear friends make proclamations without filter. And why not, they are our friends; and we trust them. We are bombarded all day long by “truths” that we do not take the time to digest before we find ourselves sharing these truths that feel right and that feel good, rather than taking time to think about and discover what is right and what is good. So how can we begin to talk with others, much less with God, when we don’t have a real voice of our own? Without a voice of our own we have no face we can call our own. No face, and no voice, that we might speak to our friends, our family and our God; with honesty and clarity. So we find ourselves voiceless  . . . till we have faces.

It is this thought that I am trying to convey by borrowing Lewis’ title for this series of photographs. Each photograph is taken out on the street while I am moving amongst a moving crowd. I notice each person hardly noticing the others around them except to be sure as not to collide. That would force interaction with another. This moving while I am taking pictures creates the facelessness I am seeking for this series. So far all photographs have been taken on the streets of Washington DC or New York City. This series is by no means complete.