Lost Faces

I can’t say I care what happens to my body after I die. Buried or cremated it is all the same to me. Or so I thought. At the very least I want somebody to be able to point at my remains and say, “there is Brayan De Los Rios Guisao.” I am disturbed by the idea of being an unidentified corpse.

It is a tragic reality for the eight men who attempted to cross the border from Mexico into Arizona. They died from “dehydration, hypotension, and hyperthermia due to environmental exposure to heat in the desert.” We don’t know their names, or if they had families, or what forced them on their fatal journey.

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. You only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well.” -Warsan Shire

Medical examiners have been unable to identify the men through DNA testing or dental records. The only hope we have in identifying them are the artists at the New York Academy of Art.


“Reconstructing a face with scientific accuracy involves rebuilding the muscles and soft tissue layer by layer, using strips of clay. Then the students use cut plastic straws placed on the clay to mark tissue depths, which are based on researchers’ averages for ages, genders and cultural backgrounds. “-New York Times

Graduate students are attempting to reconstruct the men’s faces using CT-scans, skull replicas, and clay. The students are cautioned to “leave artistic license at the door.” The goal here is to be as precise as possible in reconstructing the lost faces.


The clay reconstructions are viewable from NamUs which stands for the National Institute of Justice’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. You can also see them in person at the academy until March 29. You can read more about the artists here.


-Brayan De Los Rios Guisao

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