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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#3 – Responding to Messerschmidt (Version 2)

Using Messerschmidt’s work as inspiration for a second photo shoot, I again shot my husband pulling as many faces as possible. The shoot was carried out outdoors and during the session, my husband managed to pull more than the 64 grimaces that Messerschmidt reckoned were possible, although there are similarities between some of the faces pulled. During the shoot, my husband was provided with visual reference material including Toma’s Character Heads Lithograph and Antonia Boström’s book ‘Messerschmidt and modernity’.

My husband has a face that appears almost rubber at times.  In order to show the flow of the shoot and the ease with which he manages to contort his face, I have included a short video of part of the session. As the video shows, I do not need to direct him to pull faces, he just does it.

The resulting images were edited in a consistent way and cropped to a square format to make the display of them easier.

Due to the sheer number of them, stitching them into one single image in much the same way as Toma did with his lithogram may prove to be difficult, but will be trialed at a later date.

” ‘People prefer chatterers,’ lamented Chandos Herald in the late fourteenth century, ‘false liars, jongleurs or jesters who will pull faces and imitate a monkey to make them laugh, to someone who can tell true stories’.”

– (Southworth, 1995: 98)

When I ask my husband why he likes to pull different faces in front of the camera, his response is always “because I can”.  I have tried pushing him for more explanation.  It was difficult for him to analyse it as he has pulled faces like this all his life (he is well known for it in his family).  He did tell me that pulling faces is like “putting on different masks”. He enjoys the challenge of seeing how many faces he can pull and how much he can distort his face. Subconsciously, Iain feels he may be influenced by years of reading comics and graphic novels (figure 1).


Figure 1: Shailer. 2017

Iain finds pulling faces fun.  It reminds him of childhood and a life with less responsibility. Without fun, our lives would be dull and far too serious.  We end up doing rather than being.  We exist rather live life to the fullest.  This is not good for us.  We get more stressed, and less effective at work. Our happiness suffers.  Pulling faces and performing like this, is a release from the pressures of adult life, and the bonus is that the facial muscles get a full workout!

Edits from the shoot are below.


Southworth, J. (1995). The English medieval minstrel. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press.


Figure 1: Shailer, A. (2017). Comic Book Heroes – Tutorial site. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Sep. 2017].


Boström, A. and Messerschmidt, F. (n.d.). Messerschmidt and modernity.

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