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Work / Photography

Mark Duffy’s grotesque crops of politicians’ faces

In a more political twist on the Kemp Folds project, in which Ross Kemp’s face is distorted with hilarious results, photographer Mark Duffy’s Vote No. 1 project looks at Irish election campaign images and, in his words, “the accidental disfigurements the candidates faces suffer as a result of their posters’ erection.”

The Ireland-born but London-based photographer’s work has now been drawn together in a new photobook, which provides a highly original and surreal look at the world of politics. We see the candidates faces distorted and disfigured, undermining their messages of honesty and sincerity.

“The project started when I was just home for a visit. Growing up in Ireland I was used to seeing these posters at election time,” says Mark. “If you haven’t seen it before it’s hard to get across just how littered the place can be with them. Every lamppost covered with multiple candidates faces all vying for your attention.”

Mark has lived in London for seven years, and seeing the posters again came as something of a shock. “It was like seeing them for the first time, these badly Photoshopped faces relentlessly smiling down at you everywhere you looked. Hilarious and grotesque,” he says.

“The series started when I saw this face on the side of a car brutally bisected by the cars window. The second came soon after when I saw a poster on the side of the road with a female candidate whose neck was punctured by the plastic tie holding it in place. It just looked so inch perfect that it almost looked intentional. Then I just started seeing them everywhere I looked.”

Having returned to London, Mark had a number of great images under his belt and thought about waiting until the next election to finish the series. But suddenly he panicked: what if someone else had the idea and realised the project first? “Someone else was bound to do it if I didn’t so I booked a flight back the next day,” he says.

For the book’s special edition, photographed below by Harald Latzko and published in a limited run of 100, Mark created each cover by hand, using recycled corriboard election posters and bound with plastic ties. “So essentially the book is bound by its very subject matter,” he says.

Vote No.1 won the Vienna Photobook Award at 2015’s Vienna Photobook Festival, and was described by photography critic and judge of the prize Gerry Badger as "displaying all the qualities that mark the best conceptual photobooks.”

The book is available to by from the Photographers’ Gallery shop.

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Mark Duffy: Vote No. 1, photographed by Harald Latzko

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Mark Duffy: Vote No. 1, photographed by Harald Latzko

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Mark Duffy: Vote No. 1, photographed by Harald Latzko

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Mark Duffy: Vote No. 1, photographed by Harald Latzko

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Mark Duffy: Vote No. 1, photographed by Harald Latzko

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Mark Duffy: Vote No. 1, photographed by Harald Latzko

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Mark Duffy: Vote No. 1, photographed by Harald Latzko