Facing The Nameless
2015 | Ziv Schneider

process - computer generated death masks for the unidentified dead

process - computer generated death masks for the unidentified dead

There are more than 11,000 cases of unidentified dead in the United States alone. Issues of privacy and anonymity are widely debated these days, in the age of big data and with the spread of new technologies that allow facial recognition and tagging. 

These technologies are still not within everyone's reach and they fail in places where they could help the most. While viewing the case information, many things appear familiar to us such as the street view and the items found belonging to the person. Yet, the person's name remains unknown. When loading the portraits through the Google search by image engine, the resulting photographs turn out to mostly be of celebrities. 

This project expands on 12 cases from Namus.gov and uses different internet tools to try and better understand them. For each case, a death mask was generated from images using several pieces of 3D software. The death mask is later replaced with the real image of the person and is meant to give a gradual introduction to the difficult subject matter. 

This project explores the form of a short digital documentary and aims to increase awareness and trigger empathy and action beyond the screen. The experience links to the original database that the cases are taken from and the users are encouraged them to try help solve these cases. If a case is in fact solved, it will be removed from the site. 

Created as part of Interactive Haiku, a 12-part series commissioned by the National Film Board of Canada, Co-produced with ARTE.

Web development
Ken Amarit and Uttam Grandhi 

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TFI Interactive