MANUAL: The Personalities of Hands is a book of portraits with a twist: personal stories and private secrets told through images of hands. Readers witness the diverse range of humanity through photographs and photograms of hands rather than traditional pictures of faces. The photographs also make up a fine art exhibition. Bill Westheimer has captured the hands of 150 people from diverse walks of life, including a priest, rock star, trapeze artist, mentalist and politician. 75 of the portraits are featured in the book.
The meaty strong manly hands of a butcher and the wrinkled womanly and wise hands of a teacher tell stories and hint at mysteries which captivate the reader. The book is far more than a series of interesting photographs because these hands reveal the subjects’ humanity, reflecting personality, occupation, creativity and aspirations. Using techniques both historic and modern, Westheimer gives us hand portraits from three perspectives. We see the the photographer’s perception of the subject’s hand as captured by a 19th century wet plate glass negative; we witness their hand and gesture as revealed by a camera-less photogram created in a collaboration between subject and photographer; and we perceive their self image in a brief handwritten statement.
A selection of the images can be viewed on the Manual Project page.