The Make a Face puzzle is a customized Rubik’s cube that I sent out to perspective clients as a self-promotion this year. Working in portraiture, lifestyle, film and even animal photography faces are my true subjects. The idea of the puzzle was to to challenge people to think consciously about the faces they see in real life and in imagery. I wanted to re-purpose the cubes to become a user-interface so recipients could create new faces out my photographs.
Working with Suzette Blackwell and Cast Images we brought people to the studio based on specific looks: age, mustache, eye color. Then I photographed them all the same way. I added markers to the ground glass in my camera so I could get the eye size and position the same in each image. Next the selected images were retouched by Chrysta Giffen and then printed on 4×6 paper at a mini-lab. From there things got challenging. I needed to dissect each photo into 9 square stickers and attach those stickers to the 6 faces of the cube. If you are keeping track that’s 54 stickers per cube or 5400 stickers on 100 cubes. Those stickers would all have to be aligned on all four sides. This is a job for a die-cutting factory. All that was a no-go. This needed to be a DIY project. I ended up creating an acrylic jig to align the print to the cube and using a laser cutter to create my “die-cut” stickers. The process was: align the cube in the jig, glue the photo to the cube, laser cut the 9 squares out, peel away the excess. Repeat 6 times per cube. As a result the alignment is okay, but it’s far from perfect registration. Even with the precision of the Helix Laser, these are essentially each hand-made.
Once I was sure I’d be able to successfully create the cubes I turned to friend and creative director Kurt Herr I found a tuck-box I could laser cut which meant I could ink-jet print a design on the box and then cut it. Pretty cool. I gave Kurt the design template and we talked about how to make a package that would explain the project without being to complicated. I suggested we could have a few directions on one side of the box. He pushed me in another direction. Instead as you see here we choose to show how the cubes worked and we came up with the name Make a Face that in a few words really explained everything we wanted people to know about the gift they received.
The photos for the sides of the cubes needed to be really straight-forward, without context and similar. Since I was having really cool people in the studio for the shots I wanted to do more. I also photographed each person with my Graflex Super D on Fuji 4×5 neg film. Those image became a contest-winning portrait and the folded insert we sent with the cubes.
A big thanks to consultant Diane Eames who kept, what became a monumental project, on track and Kurt, Chrysta, TechShop San Francisco, Suzette, Amber and my intern Neil Norman who helped me shoot the video.