‘Who Paints These faces?’ – Through Courageous Eyes | LIRS
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‘Who Paints These faces?’ – Through Courageous Eyes

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The artist, Jamal Alabbood Fadi
The artist, Jamal Alabbood Fadi

I’m pleased to share with you the artwork of Jamal Alabbood Fadi, an artist who finds faces in unusual places. He is originally from Iraq, but lived in Egypt before being resettled in the United States. Jamal has lived in Columbus, Ohio for a year and a half. His images are produced through a combination of photography with digital editing and manipulation.

The Through Courageous Eyes blog series features migrant and refugee artists and is curated by Cecilia Pessoa, LIRS Communications Associate.

A tree in front of the artist’s home.

Jamal’s work is a form of found art – he sees faces in the natural world and in photographs of natural phenomena or inanimate objects. Then he edits the photographs with Photoshop to enhance the facial features. Sometimes he adds a mouth, nose, or an eye if there’s only one in the original, but at times not much work is needed. For example the image below is an original and Jamal says that “all features of the face” are “very clear.”

An “original photo” with “very clear features.”

This next image shows both the “before” and “after” versions. The original photo is NASA’s image of the Rosette Nebula. The face in this image has a haunting inspiration – Jamal says, “I saw a face screaming when an explosion was happening in Iraq, my country.”

“I saw a face screaming when an explosion was happening in Iraq, my country.”

Jamal’s Pictify profile is filled with paintings and art that he admires like “Magdalen With the Smoking Flame” painted by French Baroque artist Georges de La Tour. Another is “Lupe” by Mexican surrealist painter Octavio Ocampo. In “Lupe” I can see where Jamal gets some of his inspiration – the painting is of a woman’s face with several figures painted into it. For example, a woman’s dress forms the chin and jawline of the large face while her elbow serves as the face’s nose.

Jamal’s personal album on Pictify contains scores of edited photographs. They are mostly enhanced found faces and digitally painted portraits with blended, blurred strokes.

Jamal notices faces in places as varied as a cave, clouds, a tree, ceramic tile, and the Rosette Nebula. Since 2007 he has been taking photos with his cellphone and editing them to “improve [the] many faces in our natural [world]” which he says look as though “they had [been] drawn by someone.” Who that someone might be, he does not say.

The edited image beside the original photograph.


“I saw this face of [an] old man.”
When writing about his work, Jamal evokes a somewhat mystical tone saying “there are many faces in our natural [world], our faces don’t die, we die but our faces [are] still there.” Still, he asks “who paints these faces?” While I have no answer to that, it is still amazing that Jamal Alabbood finds and recognizes these faces in the most ordinary earthly and majestically celestial settings.

This photo was taken in Egypt on the ceramic of my flat.

Find all the previous posts in the Through Courageous Eyes series.

Through Courageous Eyes features the artistic work of refugees and migrants. If you would like to showcase your artwork as part of the Through Courageous Eyes series, please contact Cecilia Pessoa at cpessoa@lirs.org.

Banner photo credit: Johanan Ottensooser

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