Stephen Rusk


Stephen Rusk’s practice involves portraiture of performance, faces, and expressions. Using still photography and slow-moving image, working with contemporary and ballet dancers, he examines the meaning of faces in performance, questioning how the human face is read in a world of scrutiny.

In Through a Glance, Darkly, dancers eye the camera, turn, return, restore the glance, and turn again. At first, they adopt the hallmarks of identity photography: eye contact, relaxed facial muscles, closed mouth, and neutral expression. As the turns begin, subtle emotions and stresses seem to show on their faces. As they turn away, we’re denied a luxury of still images: the opportunity to gaze at our leisure and form an opinion based on little evidence. Can we read their faces before they are gone?

The project is part of a larger body of work, which questions how well we know a person from a still image or a brief encounter; it asks what happens when we try to scrutinise the inscrutable. Stephen’s research looks at the perils of automated emotion recognition and shortcuts to understanding strangers, red-flagging a new wave of physiognomy.

Thanks to the dancers from London Contemporary Dance School and Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. Special thanks to MA colleague Rosie Holtom for her contributions to the work’s formation, production, and meaning.

Judged by Anne McNeill (Impressions Gallery) and Magali Avezou (2013 alumna).


Stephen Rusk is a Canadian photographer interested in portraiture of performance, faces, and expressions. He lives and practices in London. He has a long career in dance photography, and he constantly experiments with the ways that faces are used in performance and how they are read. He completed his MA in Photography at London College of Communication in 2016, where his research and practice looked at the meaning of neutral faces, performance imagery, and the pitfalls of automating emotion recognition.

This site uses cookies. For more information on how it uses cookies please read our Privacy Policy.