The Dark Database: Facial Recognition and its "Failure" to Enroll

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Dennis Delgado


This essay discusses the Dark Database project, which looks at the presence of blackness in facial recognition systems. It recognizes the system’s privileging of Caucasian skin as the central definition of skin tone. The essay considers these flaws within the context of photography’s history of shaping how people of color are imagined and represented in visual culture. Moving through the structure of a facial recognition system, the essay describes utilizing that system to create a set of composite portraits that record what a system can “see,” and furthermore, what that process can tell us about the overall culture that produced it.

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