In the Twinkling of an Eye

More than thirty years ago, National Geographic magazine published an issue with a young Afghan woman on the cover. Her intense green eyes were so unexpected, and her expression so loaded with hard-to-read emotion, that the photograph has become iconic. Just google “afghan girl” and there she is, after all this time.

Kind of like the Mona Lisa. For six hundred years that sweet, sly woman has been capturing the imagination of her viewers, hundreds of thousands of them—no, millions.  Everyone wonders why. It’s not just the eye contact, as important as that is, because there are paintings and photos galore that deliver that direct connection without capturing our imagination.

Face Value

It must be the stories. The ones we tell ourselves.

Thrums Books are full of faces. The talented photographers we work with have a gift for helping their subjects share their stories with a look.  Here are some of my favorites–what do they say to you? Which is your favorite?

Demetrio Ramos and the loom he’s been weaving on his whole life. Photo by Joe Coca from Traditional Weavers of Guatemala.
Guadalupe Alvarez, spinner, dyer, and weaver, from Chinchero, Peru. Photograph by Joe Coca from Faces of Tradition.
Don Cecilio Ylla, master weaver from Chahuaytire, Peru. Photograph by Joe Coca from Faces of Tradition.
Woman from Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico. Photo by Janet Schwartz from Maya Threads.
Guadalupe López from San Martín Itunyoso, Oaxaca, Mexico . Photo by Eric Mindling from Oaxaca Stories in Cloth–A Book about People, Belonging, Identity, and Adornment.
Maikhom, a silk weaver from Xam Tai, Laos. From Silk Weavers from Hilltribe Laos, photo by Joe Coca.
feisty women
Fadma Wadal, a weaver from Morocco. From Women Artisans of Morocco, photo by Joe Coca.
Hilda Chura from Accha Alta, Peru–already a skilled spinner at the age of ten. From Secrets of Spinning, Weaving, and Knitting in the Peruvian Highlands, photo by Joe Coca.
The happiest of women in Guatemala. From A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Guatemala, photo by Judy Tillinger.

As a species, we’re hard-wired to recognize faces. It’s one of the first things we learn as infants. And we’re not alone. New Caledonian crows—crows!— not only can recognize each other minutely, they can recognize thousands of human faces, even after not having seen them for a year or more. And they can read stories into them, deduce who is mean and who is a friend.  Even pea-brained hummingbirds have facial recognition of the humans who hang out those juicy feeders. (I learned these things and many more in a wonderful book, The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman.)

They say that if you gaze into the eyes of another person, maybe even a stranger, for a mere four minutes, you might find yourself in love.  Maybe that’s why I love making the books we do. The people, the faces, just send me head over heels.


Fall in love with the faces of Thrums Books.

3 thoughts on “In the Twinkling of an Eye

  1. Mary Anne Wise says:

    I’ve looked at them all several times. I can’t pick a favorite. What I love about all of them is their dignity.

  2. Pamela Marble says:

    Linda, I share your sentiments. These faces speak to me of a profound human dignity, while the eyes command respect. Impossible for me to choose a favorite, I’m simply compelled to hear the stories etched in each face. I applaud the photographers and the authors who provide a glimpse of the gentle souls behind the faces. Thank you for enabling us to see them!

  3. Deborah Chandler says:

    Nice, thanks. Much as I love all those pictures, I think it is ten year old Hilda Chura that captures me most, maybe because she seems to be looking into the future, her future. What will she create?

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