The Web: Katie Eschbacher's Expression

by Mitch Harding
written on 4/19/00

The Expression

Katie Eschbacher, when photographed, has only a single facial expression. Perhaps that is a slight exagerration, but it is largely true. First, so we can all recognize it, here is a classic example of "The Expression":


What follows are a number of photographs, all of which feature "The Expression". These are provided to lend credence to the claim that Katie wears the same expression in most photographs. Click on any of the thumbnails below to see a larger picture.

Note a few things. In one picture Katie is eating a peach, yet she still manages to give "The Expression". Note also that the expression does have minor variations. Sometimes the eyebrows are raised very high, and other times the raising is only hinted at. The smile can be of varying size. The head is often, but not always, tilted. However, "The Expression" is still clearly identifiable in all of the above pictures.

Major Variations

Sad to say, Katie does not ALWAYS use "The Expression". However, even when she is not using it, quite often she employs expressions that are closely related. They each have important differences that distinguish them from "The Expression", but the connection is clear. Below are some photographs giving examples of this. Click on any of the thumbnails to see a larger picture.

In the first picture, the eyebrows are raised as usual. The mouth, however, is in a different configuration. It can't quite be called a smile, so it isn't "The Expression". But the eyes are directed to the side, which is another common facet of "The Expression". This is a close derivative, giving the impression that Katie is bemused or curious (whereas "The Expression" tends to convey excitement or elation).

In the second picture, the eyes and eyebrows are again consistent with the classic model. However, the mouth is even further removed from a smile. This look can almost embody worry or sadness. Emotionally it is far from "The Expression", but yet Katie still manages to employ a similar strategy to accomplish this very different goal.

In the third picture, Katie looks diabolical. The head is cocked, the eyes turned to the side, and the eyebrows raised. Again, it is the mouth that provides some difference. This may even be called a smile, but not the sort of smile that is always seen with "The Expression". It is harder to pinpoint why this photo makes Katie appear to be a spy or a criminal, but it does. It can still be seen as playful, which is consistent with "The Expression", but it is not merely a minor variation of it.


In pictures prior to High School, Katie does not wear "The Expression". One must assume, then, that Katie acquired "The Expression" at some point during her early adolescence. I currently have no theories to explain this.


In the following picture, it is impossible to tell if Katie is using "The Expression". Perhaps she is trying to hide it from the camera? (As before, clicking on the thumbnail will produce a pleasant surprise)

Commentary By Katie

Re: the Katie Eschbacher photograph phenomenon (aka "What's the deal with your eyebrows?") (or: "An exceptionally long guestbook entry, by Katie")

You are certainly not the first to have noticed that I tend to wear a nearly identical expression in the majority of pictures. This in fact seems to be a phenomenon of national (if not international) interest. Most recently my mother and my brother have pestered me about it -- "Come on, Katie, give us 'the face'!" -- in a bout of photo-taking meant to commemorate my brother having reached a much greater height than I.

It was also noted by one Dr. William Guinee, a professor of anthropology at Westminster College. My professor of anthropology, in fact. At the beginning of the semester he admitted to the class that he was incapable of remembering the names of his students, and in an attempt to faciliate the name-learning process he broke out his digital camera and made us all sit for pictures. He then made himself a poster which he has hanging in his office with the names and images of all of his students. It seems to have helped. My picture, of course, ended up looking just like every other picture ever taken of me. As a result, I am the only student who stood out on his poster. He therefore learned my name first, even though after that first class I didn't return for two weeks.

I am frequently complimented on my drivers' license photo as well as my school ID card because those pictures, too, feature the half-turned head and raised eyebrows we have all come to be so familiar with. Even after a car accident, the police officer that was looking at my license took the time to say "This is the best license picture I've ever seen. What on earth were you doing?"

You see, when people say "Hey, I'm going to take a picture of you," I am wracked with nervous energy. It seems to manifest itself through my eyebrows. Please don't ask for any further explanation, as that is not something I am able to provide.

In spite of years of comments regarding my photos, there has yet to have been created a webpage dedicated to studying or admiring, or even simply noting, it. It should be mentioned before I end this message that not all eyebrow-observations have been positive. One such incident is that of Lish. Lish sure hates me, and according to Lish, it is entirely due to my predictable appearance in all of my photos. I did not intend harm, Lish.

This is probably thorough enough for the time being. Have a lovely afternoon, Mitch Harding.

What About Mitch?

I have scoured my archives, and these are the best possible candidates of me using "The Expression". I may indeed be using it in these photos (although not in deliberate imitation of Katie). However, the frequency of my use of "The Expression" is far less, as can be seen by perusing my full photo gallery. (Hey hey -- thumbnails can still be clicked on)

As you can see, despite my extensive collection of photographs, very few can be found that closely resemble "The Expression". I will leave it up to the viewer to decide if I actually make use of it in any of the above photographs. Interestingly, I have many photographs in which I use my eyebrows similarly, or cock my head similarly, or position my eyes similarly, or smile similarly...but Katie combines all of those things (and probably other, more subtle actions) to produce her patented look. This is a phenomenon I have not seen before, not that I can remember anyway. It is fascinating.

Final Questions

Will Katie ever "outgrow" her look? In twenty years, will she still use "The Expression"? Does she use it a lot outside of photographs? Will her children someday use it? Will friends pay homage to her by using it?

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