Through the looking glass

Photographer Rut Mackel’s series The Ugly Truth “explores the ugliness and the beauty that exists within each of us”, thanks to her use of a simple but effective technique

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Ah, the old ‘squash your face up against the glass technique’ …. but photographer Rut Mackel’s series The Ugly Truth gives an old idea some fresh impetus



Mackel says that the idea of the project was to explore how our perceptions of someone change when their face is disfigured or distorted. And how the subjects themselves react to seeing their new selves.



To create the images, she simply asked her models to hold a framed piece of glass against their faces and shot through it.



Perhaps it’s the choice of subject and the fact that the models themselves are helping to create the images that give this series an interesting, er, twist. Of course, people have been squashing their faces against glass for comedic effect for about as long as glass has existed. And photographers have used the technique many times before (here’s a nice series from Neil Bedford, for example) – it’s very much a student project staple.

Still, to our mind, by far the best use of the technique has to be Close Contact, the astonishing series of images created by Jenny Saville and Glen Luchford in 1995. But Mackel, who is based in London and who has been a freelance photographer since 2010, has a different take on the idea, producing a fun, at times slightly disturbing series of pictures. You can see more of her work here.


More face squashing fun:

Sit on My Face: cushions bearing a portrait of a squashed face
50 Animals Squashed Against Glass

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  • Great pictures, I would’ve kept more color in em

  • Fenton Winters

    I don’t know – I think the diminished colour just helps steer towards it’s less slapstick style of delivery adding to the very charm the series.
    Really nice juxtaposition of content and image quality.

    Ignore that noise – Nice pics ma bey!

  • O gosh I am afraid how do they feel comfortable?

  • Those photo’s… My god. I make better photos on my blackberry z10. Although, it might also be considered “art”. Oh well, these days a lot of things are considered “art” if they’re ugly. Might well be my taste. Just my two cents!