52 Faces: A Visual Project to Define Love

A new photography project is making waves around the internet. Fifty-two Faces, a unique and inspirational work of portraiture, asks us to define the indefinable: Love.

The project’s inventive creators, Thomas Obungen and Geoff Souder, set off to craft an eye-opening experience to the masses with a yearlong visual philosophical analysis. The duo asked 52 individuals from all walks of life to define love and elaborate on how it has affected their lives.

The Faces were not given any time to prepare for what they were going to say — all of their responses are candid and raw.

"Life is such a strong thing. It's the strongest emotion and the strongest energy and power we have in this universe..." - Ella P, student

“I’m a caring person. Love didn’t have a special definition for me, but it was and continues to be my modus operandi,” Obungen said. “Every action, word, and feeling I do, say, or project outwards goes through a filter of sorts in my mind and heart as a double check to make sure it’s coming from a place of love.”

Obungen and Souder wanted to share their discoveries with the world.

“Over the past few years I’ve come to realize that love is everything. Love, much like The Force or the code in the Matrix, makes up and connects all things across the universe,” Souder said. “A human, a rock, a speck of dust, a pig, dark matter, everything.”

Souder did not always think that way. At a point in his life, he questioned if love existed at all.

“When you live a life without love, you’re only turning your back on what’s undeniably there and robbing yourself from experiencing and expressing life. So my definition has crystalized, leading up to this project,” Souder said.

The project, thus far, has been tremendously well-received. They have been hearing from “a lot of people who want to be a part of the project, which is the greatest compliment we could get.”

"I feel so iffy about defining love, just because the main two people that I've been around most of my life have a very interesting and not so glamorous relationship," Jackie S, Vegan Blogger, Freelance Photographer, & Merch Girl

Check out our 2-on-1 with the guys!

iEatGrass: How has your perception of the way you previously defined “love” changed since you started the project?

Thomas Obungen: I have always held love in a positive light, but after reading and experiencing the interviews we had with our Faces, I have to say that love has a dark force within it as well. I’ve learned from many of the responses what it’ll make some do and how it has affected them, sometimes for the worse.

Geoff Souder: Oh, this is going to be a tough one, but I promise you a happy ending! Through this project we got to talk to a lot of people that were experiencing love in so many, different, beautiful ways. It really helped to shape and mold my relationship with love, and to spot where love was missing in my life. One of those places was my marriage, which, after a lot of tears and heartache, ended recently. Out of a better understanding of love I realized that my relationship was holding both myself, and my partner back. So the most loving thing we could do for each other was move apart. Our Faces really helped me understand a lot about myself and what I need out of life, making me so much stronger. My intellectual definition is finally being absorbed in an emotional way, which is a huge leap forward in my life.

iEG: Some people coast through life accepting what they are taught about love. That’s not the case when it comes to the both of you. Were you always such a forward thinkers?

TO: I’m crediting my parents with this one. I grew up in a loving household in Hawaii. I think my parents are the coolest, most genuine and supportive badasses out there and I’m so happy and lucky to have been raised by them. I think was the perfect environment for me to be unafraid of breaking the mold.

GS: Through my life, I’ve always questioned basically everything. I’m a classic over-thinker and I spend a lot of time mulling over things that we take for granted. When I was younger I surrounded myself with people who were open to exploring the things in our lives that we take for granted. Veganism, Art, Love, these are all things that take an open mind to approach. So I wouldn’t call myself a forward thinker, more of a person with a disproportional amount of curiosity.

iEG: Who is your audience? Who are you trying to reach with these messages?

TO/GS: Our audience is overwhelmingly women, a majority of which are 25-44. Heyyy girls! We are trying to reach both men and women, especially millennials, but because we are dealing with an emotionally heavy and it is what we expected. As this project evolves we hope our concepts also evolve to be equally well received among all.

But seriously guys, get in on this if you want to know what the women are thinking and feeling.

iEG: We’re excited to learn what 11-year-olds+ are saying about love. How was it to work with children and young teens?

TO/GS: Part of the beauty of the project is that people don’t have any chance to prepare anything before we hit the record button, so there’s a certain amount of pressure that’s involved. Ella (15), who we posted 2 weeks ago,was extremely clear and confident with her response. You can see the excitement in her post- the words were just pouring out of her. She had clearly thought about this or something like it before. Her sister, Laila (11), gave a great answer too, but it was focused on her veganism (yes, an 11 year old vegan- by choice!) and that really told us a lot about the connection to her choices. Working with teens can be difficult, but not with these two!

iEG: Do you truly believe that there are infinite definitions of love?

TO/GS: The premise of this project is that love is literally everything in the universe, so in that sense, there is only one love. However, every person on the planet sees love through their own mind, a filter of ground glass shaped by the experiences they had over the course of their lives. So in that sense, there are infinite perceptions of love, which is the root of definition. The interesting thing is the common threads among the responses—if you look, you can find them—and that is where the project really starts to come together as a whole.

Keep up with this visual project on Facebook and Instagram @fiftytwofaces.

Find out what words are up next for exploration by following Fifty-two Faces social media handles and by subscribing to the newsletter.

“[We] Can’t say just yet, as don’t want our potential “Faces” to know beforehand. What we can say is that they exist in the same realm as love and in some ways are intertwined with the experience of love.”

In the meantime, the guys encourage you to try the project, on your own, right now. Take 10 minutes and come up with a response to these questions:

  • How do you define love?
  • How has love affected your life so far?

You’ll be amazed a how hard this is, and, if you answer honestly, how much you can get from it.

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4 Responses to 52 Faces: A Visual Project to Define Love

  1. Kezia says:

    This is beautiful and compelling. Thanks to them and iEG for spreading the love.

  2. Charlene says:

    An amazing project…

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