Faces of India: Markets, Merchants, and Artisans

On view September 4th – October 7th, 2018. 

The Hearst Museum’s current gallery exhibit, Face to Face: Looking at Objects that Look at You, explores how and why human faces are depicted in different ways. The small exhibit you see here complements our gallery exhibit by presenting an example of the photography of human faces.

Anthropologist Richard Lerner (1939-2015) took these photographs in India, 1968-1970 and 1988-1989. Many of his subjects were merchants and artisans in marketplaces. He took about 1,700 in all, and at the same time, collected about 500 objects for the Hearst Museum. Documentary photography such as this is a contrast to human faces depicted on objects like ritual items, dolls, and paintings, as our gallery exhibit shows. Such a contrast raises the question, what difference can it make to create and to view a human face in a photograph, versus another kind of depiction? Is a photograph really always more “true” than any other form of representation?

As a humanist, Lerner believed in capturing candid images of people in their daily lives; as a materialist, he was interested in the objects that surrounded them: “I’ve always been interested in how things look, and the physical manifestations of life. And photography is the primary means of recording that.” Another of his motivations was to offer photos as gifts for his consultants, since photographers were rare in villages. Lerner usually waited to take pictures until after he had become familiar with the people and sites, and he obtained permission from his subjects.


This exhibit is located in the lobby of Kroeber Hall.