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Students engage in photo illusions at Jerome Library


Senior Aby Morales, a student worker at the music library, holds a record sleeve in front of 2nd year master’s student David Carson’s face as Student Supervisor Liz Tousey takes a photo. The students are sleevefacing.

Liz Tousey and Susannah Cleveland believe visits to the library can be fun.

“It’s not all stern looks and shushing,” said Tousey, circulation and student supervisor at the Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives.

Tousey and Cleveland have fun by engaging visitors in “sleevefacing,” which is lining up a person and a record sleeve so they both appear to be one and photographing the illusion.

“I think it shows that we can have fun,” Tousey said.

At the same time, they are serious about taking good shots.

“Most people are really haphazard about it. We are very precise,” said Cleveland, head librarian of the Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives.

Tousey said she usually takes five or six shots to make sure she gets a perfect lineup.

It’s easiest to create a sleevefacing based on matching clothing, so Tousey and Cleveland keep some records organized by clothing color separate from the rest of the collection. Visitors can work with Tousey and Cleveland to select an album that matches the clothes they happen to be wearing.

“The better things match, the more the optical illusion works,” Tousey said.

However, it’s also possible to plan ahead and dress for a particular album.

Michael Lee, a 2012 graduate, completed multiple sleevefacings and used both approaches.

“I chose colors that I knew that I had, as well as pictures I was interested in completing,” Lee said.

Lee worked in the Music Library, and sometimes Cleveland or Tousey would notice his outfit could match well with a particular album.

After choosing an album, Tousey, Cleveland and the subject will decide what pose is necessary to match up with the album.

“I tried to recreate the body language that I thought was happening in the picture already,” Lee said. “I put myself in the position that I believed the artist was also in.”

Once the pose is established, adjustments in the subject’s position and in the distance of the album from the camera are made until there is a perfect lineup.

“It probably took five minutes at most,” Lee said.

The Music Library Facebook page has been home to sleevefacing pictures since Tousey and Cleveland began taking them. Recently, they started a Tumblr blog for the pictures.

“You can kind of see the ripples better,” Cleveland said, referring to Tumblr users’ ability to reblog posts.

The blog is called “Library Sleevefacing.” The title intentionally does not refer to the University, which allows other libraries to feel free to submit sleevefacings, Cleveland said. The only rules are that submissions must be photographed in a library and they can’t be digitally altered.

Although Tousey and Cleveland have fun with their sleevefacing project, it does benefit the Music Library.

“It turned out to be this really good outreach activity,” Cleveland said. “It gives [us] a chance to connect with patrons.”

Tousey said sometimes they have asked random students in the library to pose for a sleevefacing, which can lead to those students coming back and interacting more. Cleveland said people who used to silently study might say hello.

Tousey and Cleveland estimate that they have photographed 250-300 sleevefacings since the summer of 2010. They encourage anyone who is interested in sleevefacings to visit and ask to do one.

“[Tousey and Cleveland are] always a lot of fun to work with,” Lee said.

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