Illustration of three people looking into one hand mirror, held by the person at the centre, who has no facial features.

Illustration: Carla McRae

The faces of early hominids were like stiff masks; they didn't have much variation or mobility at all. Over millions of years, our faces have evolved to become smaller and narrower – and to become enormously varied from one person to the next. Scientists think being readily identifiable and recognisable has helped us to thrive as a species.

But if the pieces in this edition of Notes are any indication, there’s quite a bit of anxiety about the connection between faces and personal identity at this stage in human evolution. Do our faces belong to us – or do we belong to our faces?

We’re not going to lie – there may be something unsettling going on here. Connor Tomas O'Brien delves into surveillance and facial recognition technology, Georgia Rose Phillips explores the short history of experimental face transplants, and Tiffany Tsao imagines a profitable face-swap.

Through a series of loosely-connected observations, Rachel Ang's graphic essay takes the face as a site of recognition and transaction. And an anonymous TV hair-and-makeup artist reveals behind-the-scenes secrets.