There are some people you hear about almost every day, whether you want to or not: Lindsay Lohan with her constant party-rehab-party cycle, Britney Spears and her psychotic meltdowns, and 15-year-old Miley Cyrus and her latest “racy” Internet photos.
But one new Web site, Faces of Bellingham, allows the everyday people of Bellingham—those who live quiet, comparatively scandal-free lives—to have a taste of the limelight.
Lea Kelley, a local artist, started Faces of Bellingham on a whim in early April after her friend gave her a camera for her birthday.
“I was walking around town with a companion of mine, and we were taking pictures of random things,” Kelley said. “I came across a man with a fascinating face—one of those faces with life written all over it. He let me take his picture, and while looking at his face through the view finder with the rest of the world blocked out, I was startled at the humanity looking back at me. I became more and more inspired with every face after that.”
Kelley posted the first face on her Web site on April 4. As of May 28, there were more than 1,114 pictures posted (some featuring two faces). Her site had received 20,582 views at press time.
According to Kelley, the site has helped many Bellingham residents to get to know and recognize the faces around them, even if they had never met before.
“Earlier today, I heard two guys who were obviously meeting each other for the first time, and one of them said, ‘Dude, I saw you on Faces of Bellingham!'” Kelley said with a grin.
Western junior Alex Kelly was photographed for the site on May 23. Just a few days later, Kelly had already been recognized from the site.
“Two acquaintances here at Western came up to me and said they had seen me on the Web site,” Kelly said. “It's a really interesting, unique project.”
Kelley herself has also gained a certain amount of notoriety for the project. Although she has never posted her own headshot on Faces of Bellingham, the site's one thousandth picture was a collage of Kelley's image reflected in people's eyes and sunglasses. And many of the people featured one Faces of Bellingham haven't forgotten the woman with long, red hair and a camera who took the time to recognize them.
“A lot more people smile at me these days,” Kelley said. “I love that! A lot of folks thank me after they see their face on the site. Sometimes a person even comes up to me and asks if they can be a face of Bellingham or if I will take a picture of their baby.”
Mark Malijan, a Western senior and photography intern for the Bellingham Herald was with his boss and another photographer at Starbucks when Kelley approached him to take his picture for Faces of Bellingham.
“I thought it was a cool project, because I was actually thinking of doing something like that myself,” Malijan said.
Malijan said he enjoyed being pictured on Faces of Bellingham, but he thinks the site would be even better if each picture had a short caption telling the person's name and a short bio.
Currently, site visitors have the option of commenting on their photos and adding their names and biographical information if they choose, but the majority of the pictures have no additional information.
“I find that their faces tell me more about them than any dialogue I could have with them,” Kelley said.
According to Kelley, most of the people she's approached have been enthusiastic about being photographed.
“Very few people have refused—probably one in 200,” Kelley said. “And it's usually for good reasons, like having aluminum foil on their head or hiding from a girlfriend in another state. I completely honor anyone that does not want their face exposed to the world, but I really respect those who are willing to share themselves in authenticity.”
Having photographed more than 1,000 people in Bellingham, Kelley runs the risk of asking the same person for a photo twice. But, Kelley said, that this has luckily happened only once so far.
“[The girl] was at a grocery store and looked completely different than the photo I had taken of her at work a few weeks before that,” Kelley said. “But the first one really didn't look like her anyway, and she was so happy to get a new photo taken!”
Kelley said that one of her goals for the project is to photograph 10 percent of Bellingham's population, which would be about 7,500 faces. However, that will not necessarily be her stopping point.
“After that, I may be so inspired as to [continue my project and] expand my portal into humanity until my own face disappears from it,” Kelley said.
According to Kelley, working on the Faces of Bellingham project has helped her see the general good of humanity as a whole.
“I have learned that beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder and in the eyes of my neighbors—the real celebrities of life,” Kelley said. “I hope others will start paying more attention to the real people and ignoring the seductive call of propaganda and manufactured identities.”
Visit the Faces of Bellingham Web site at: http://facesofbellingham.wordpress.com/.