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Photographer's Note

The three-and-a-half year old miniature beauty is waiting for her mother. She is clearly deep in thought, but about what? Good art is open-ended — there is a story to be sure, but if a thousand people see the same work, there may be a thousand different interpretations, in the manner of the Mona Lisa. Or maybe William Shakespeare had it right again:

If I could write the beauty of your eyes,
And in fresh numbers, number all your graces,
The future age to come would say, “This poet lies,
His heavenly touch ne’er touched earthly faces.”

In cropping the photo I was mindful of having one eye of the child centered on the vertical bisector of the frame. It was in 1998 that Dr. Christopher Tyler, psychologist and art-lover in San Francisco, discovered that in almost all great single-subject portraits the center-line passes through an eye, not the nose! This is the case in Leonardo's defining portrait, Mona Lisa, it's even true in Picasso's Portrait of Dora Maar, where, if the great artist knew this principle, he would have placed the eye somewhere in the right bottom corner -- to be different. It appears that we focus on an eye when we paint a portrait in oil, or shoot a portrait with a camera. I wrote about this discovery in my book, 'Math and the Mona Lisa,' (Smithsonian Books 2004). I took the photo about the time the book was released.

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