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Mouth Eyes are photographs in which one’s eyes are replaced by their mouth expression in it. The resulting depiction is usually a creepier version of the photograph or, sometimes, a more glamorous one depending on the expression.
Many were quick to point out that the main inspiration for this meme may come from The Corinthian character from Neil Gaiman’s comic book series The Sandman.
In popular culture
Imagining someone why his eyes replaced by mouths has always inspired a mixed feeling of nightmarish terror or at least uneasy creepyness.
One of the first characters known for this kind of feature is The Corinthian. The Corinthian is the name given to a peculiar man from the notable The Sandman comic book, written by Neil Gaiman and published from 1989 to 1996.
The wikipedia entry for that character describes him as follows :
The Corinthian is a nightmare created by Dream, who destroys him in the same collection for going rogue and failing to fulfill his original design. Dream later recreates him with “some changes”, though the exact nature of these changes is not explicit. His most notable physical feature, aside from his white hair, is his lack of eyes: in their place, two rows of small, jagged teeth line each eye socket, which he often covers with sunglasses. He can speak, eat and even respire through these mouths. The Corinthian is an impeccable dresser and will often wear only white clothing. This has earned him the nickname “Man in White” in some circles.
The Corinthian does not appear to suffer in any way from his lack of eyes, and indeed claims to be able to see perfectly well: he is shown driving adequately even while wearing sunglasses at night. He is however fond of taking the eyeballs of his victims and eating them with his own socket/mouths. Consuming the eyes of his victims allows him to view what they have viewed in their lives and even see the future in some cases. The Corinthian is also able to possess human beings. When the Corinthian assumes control of a new host, the eyes are consumed and replaced by teeth and the hair of the victim turns white. During the process, the eye sockets bleed profusely. All other physical characteristics remain the same for the host. This lets the Corinthian jump between bodies and even pass himself off as his victims if he is able to hide or explain the physical changes.
The Corinthian, then, is more of a monster than a human being, as far as the comic book is concerned, which may have added more strength to that fear sentiment.
As a matter of fact, artists that are more likely to reuse the concept are the ones who are into showing a darker and different view of reality. That’s what happened with French Artist Jean Lecointre, specialized in digital collage, who did his draw on Mouth Eyes for the French cover of a Richard Matheson’s book issued in 2003.
Earliest instances on the web
While there isn’t any hint of who exactly started having the idea to photoshop people’s photographs in order to replace their eyes with mouths and where it occured on Internet, the earliest photos availables are stored in a Macrochan sub-section about “Eye Mouths” pictures.
The very first of them is the following photo, showing an asian woman grinning and marked as being last modified the 20th of July 2005 :
These pictures may or may not come from a 4chan thread, as there is absolutely no archive about Mouth Eyes or Eye Mouths pictures on 4chanarchive.
Another modified photograph of a baby appeared on British website Where’s the beef. The picture is marked as being last modified in September 30 2006 :
The unknown bald girl screaming
A recurring photograph related to the meme, depicting a white bald girl screaming while seemingly holding her head with her hands in shock, has been posted from the Macrochan section to a couple of websites reusing it, from at least 2005 to these days.
While the Macrochan set shows at least three different pictures from it, other websites using it are including an old site version from a website called High Mayhem, a personal website for a radio or among other images in a Myspace collection.
The FreakingNews contest
Contest Directions: When it comes to horror images, one of the most disturbing depictions of human face is with mouths in the place of eyes – such illustrations are favorite of many horror books.
Photoshop mouths in the place of eyes of any human or animal. Humans can be celebrities, politicians, characters from paintings, or any other people. You can make your entry horror-looking (see example), or make it any other style – e.g. glamor style with pretty women’s mouths for eyes.
The contest garnered about 78 entries of modified pictures from various celebrities featuring their eyes replaced by their mouths.
That contest has been covered by many Internet media :
- Metafilter article.
- Boing Boing.net article.
- Links on Buzzfeed.
- An article on PhotoshopNews.
- A 2009 Urlesque article about Oprah.
Consequences of its popularity, the concept spread to other websites and artists :
In January 2009, Youtube user BalloonShop uploaded a video entitled The Curious Case of Mouth Eyes :
Another artistic depiction by photographer Alva Bernardine in November 2010 :
The late 2007s/early 2008s peak corresponds to the FreakingNews contest’s popularity.
Between January 31 and February 3 2008, FreakingNews launched a new contest, inspired by the last one, consisting of quite the opposite. This time, the rules were to replace a celebrity’s mouth by his/her eyes. Called Eye Mouth Pictures, the directions were now :
Contest Directions: In our previous popular contest we have shown what celebrities would look like if they had their eyes replaced with their mouths. Today lets try the opposite and photoshop what celebrities would look like if their had their mouths replaced with their eyes. See example 1, example 2, example 3.
We have extended the submission and voting time for this contest by extra 12 hours, so that more people have a chance to enter and vote.
Boosted by the popularity of their previous contest, they got 217 entries on that one.
FreakingNews reiterated another Mouth Eyes contest between June 22 and June 25 2008, targeting animal photos this time. That latter gathered about 72 entries.