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Matinee: 'The Face Forward Project' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

5 August 2023

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 512th in our series of Saturday matinees today: The Face Forward Project.

This 1:58 video tells the story of the Chicago Department of Public Health's 2021 campaign to promote Covid vaccinations among the city's youth. It was a success, with four out of five kids getting vaccinated citywide.

But it was also an interesting photography project.

A custom-built mobile photo studio traveled across the city for about 10 days to offer the kids a custom portrait session with photographer Sandro Miller. As part of that session, though, the kids were interviewed about their plans for the future. After being protected from Covid, they found they had something to look forward to.

The sound track from that interview for each kid was used to create individualized custom graphics with artificial intelligence that were used for the background and clothing elements of the portrait. The resulting portraits were showcased on The Face Forward Project Web site and Instagram channel as well as throughout the city on public signage like billboards.

"Vaccines are truly the path to putting the pandemic behind us and getting back to the things we all love," said CDPH commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D., at the time. "What better way is there to look to a future past the pandemic, than showcasing the faces and voices of young people in Chicago? This campaign reminds us what is at stake with the vaccination effort."

The video shows Sandro shooting portraits with his Nikon Z and the kids talking about the future with sound waves imposed on their video.

The AI process that created the background and clothing treatments used each kid's mood to dictate color, their ambition for pattern shapes inspired by the city's icons and their voice to determine the pattern itself. That was composited with a black-and-white image of their face and, where uncovered, their limbs, creating a unique piece of art representing each kid.

The images were published to inspire other kids to get vaccinated. Over 141,000 teens did just that.

"Teens were not only able to visualize what hope looked like," the video concludes, "they became symbols of it."

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