Face Recognition and the Emergence of Smart Photography

Kember, Sarah. 2014. Face Recognition and the Emergence of Smart Photography. Journal of Visual Culture, 13(2), pp. 182-199. ISSN 1470-4129 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article examines face recognition as a key instance of the emergence of smart photography. Smart photography, drawing on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Ambient Intelligence (AmI) manifests a ‘habit of mind’ (Karen Barad), or a way of thinking that is humanist in so far as it is predicated on human and machine autonomy, and representationalist in its quest for unmediated objects-in-themselves. Faces are among the objects that smart photography seeks (autonomously) to represent. By examining two of the principal algorithms of face recognition technology, the article will show how ways of seeing allied to ways of thinking that are also, ultimately, discriminatory and essentialist, materialise through software. Finally, if the ‘smart’ in smart photography means learning to discriminate between classes of faces that are fixed, essentialised and ultimately elusive (the stereotypical face of terror is both gendered and racialised) then how could smart be made smarter? This is a question of politics rather than progress.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):



algorithms, ambient, face recognition technology, intelligence, photography, representationalism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


28 August 2014Published

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Date Deposited:

29 Oct 2014 11:34

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:02

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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