The Geographical, vintage portraits of Ed Fairburn

Ed Fairburn, an illustrator based in Cardiff, creates unique portraits by illustrating on old vintage maps. These beautifully rendered works examine “the synchronicity of the patterns between the geographical and the human being”. By juxtaposing the lines of the map and of the human face, Fairburn exposes the viewer to a concept that can literally remind us of how united we are underneath the apparent differences. Fairburn, paints, draws and constructs his works by using a flexible range of tangible media across a wide range of surfaces and contexts, allowing his practice to exist across various disciplines.

The beauty lies in how natural this marriage of forms feels. In expanding a human visage to the scale of, say, Germany (as in Deutschland) or of all of North America (as he did in North America I and II), Fairburn is telling a story about the extent to which we are actually mic rocosms of the universe.

His series of astronomically themed portraits makes the point more explicitly, in pieces such as Der Gestirnte Himmel (The Starry Heavens) series. Over these circular star-maps, Fairburn’s pencil sketched portraits humanize the night sky – a modern update of our most ancient impulses to mythologize the constellations.


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