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12 Portrait Series That Document Our Changing Relationship With Technology

A round-up of portraits made using technologies new and old that explore how we see ourselves today.

A future overrun by sentient tin cans is highly unlikely, especially since it seems that we ourselves are becoming machines. We’re looking for ways to override our sleep patterns. We have a personal computer in our pockets that we can accessorize according to our personality. And most important, if not slightly unnerving: we’re spending more time with machines than we are with the warm-blooded, already-sentient beings we call our friends and loved ones.

This hybridization is not all bad though. Technology can make the insufferable sufferable and, by contrast, teach us all how to be better humans.

That hopeful sentiment is the inspiration for these 12 portrait series that use technology as a medium, canvas, backdrop, or muse, and that vividly foresee a future where human and machine are interchangeable.

IT Icon(s) Mosaics


Mark Zuckerberg mosaic.(Credit: Charis Tsevis; Original Photo: Francois G. Durand)

For the book Gadgets, Games, Robots and the Digital World, cyberculture enthusiast Charis Tsevis was asked to take six of IT’s most recognizable faces and create mosaics out of them using the symbols that have come to define them. As closer examination of the Zuckerberg visage shows, he’s entirely composed of the many icons that dominate the blue-tinged social media experience.

Error Message Portraiture


Glitches are a way of life online--they're seemingly everywhere and unavoidable--but at least they're relegated to the digital space. Until now, that is... Nandan Ghiya has contorted the frames of antique portraits into tactile representations of data gone wrong. And they’re far more endearing than a blue screen of death could ever be.

‘36 Exposures’ On Film Canister

David Emmit Adams shared his fascination for tintype photography with his ‘Introduction To Photography’ class. The results are these wholesome images of his students plastered on the hard canisters of 35mm film. Upon completion, the images were all housed in a mahogany display case for preservation. Film might be dead but there’s no reason why this creative interpretation of a medium should ever be lost.

500-Selfies Composite

Flickr user clickflashwhirr has taken a picture of herself every day for 714 of them. Seeing a perfect opportunity to create a composite image of her many day identities, Tiemen Rapati created the composite image shown above by using the average RGB value of each pixel point and dividing that by the number of portraits used--in this case, 500.

Computer Keys

Analog to Digital plots out the too familiar faces of global celebrities with the help of computer keys. Conceived by Melbourne-based Works By Knight, the series aims to capture the extent of the technological progress that humanity has undergone. The message is especially fitting for those who spend a good part of their lives behind a computer screen. Over time, they create an unseen, yet traceable, portrait of their personalities through their keystrokes.

Airplane Windows

Airplanes no longer impress anyone. But the global connectivity they provide is trumped only by the Internet. In the shadow of both these technological powerhouses, man can seem secluded and small, and that sentiment is perfectly captured by John Schabel’s Passengers series. Even before flying 30,000 feet into the air, we’re all trapped within the frames we’ve constructed for ourselves with the use of technology.

Bacteria

More the cafeteria mess of bacteria than portraits, Finnish artist Erno-Erik Raitanen believes his bacteriograms are representations of himself because the images “are a product of [his] body.” Raitanen collected societies of the microscopic critters on photographic film, they in turn produced the mesmerizing image above by consuming their new home. In the future, even bacteria will get 15 minutes of fame.

Lo-Tech Projections

If most of what makes us who were are exists on the cloud, does that mean that we’ve become eternal? Of course not, but that’s exactly the point of Troika’s project Hard Coded Memory. Essentially a lo-tech projector the size of a mattress, the mechanism projects pixelated portraits on an adjoining wall. Like our lives, big data is ephemeral, so we must learn to put less stock in its ubiquity.

Google Portraits

No recognizable face features are visible here, but Aram Bartholl’s Google Portraits are QR-coded drawings that represent people. With a smartphone, any passerby can decipher the code to pull the encoded url of a person’s Google search results. In many cases in this day and age, the first picture someone might have of you is what comes up on the other end of Google.

Computational Spiderwebs

Golan Levin tapped into the imaging potential of Voronoi diagrams, which are organic building blocks that are part of living cells, to create this series. Using a Voronoi-inspired algorithm, Levin was able to drape existing photographs with a filter that resembles the intricate webbing of a spider. But really, the pursuit is far more daunting and exceptional than even the most ambitious spider webbing.

Mandelbrot Genetic Faces

The Mandelbrot Set, a pretty blotch of forever-growing blotches, is the most complex object known to mathematics, and therefore, man. Jeffrey Ventrella, using the genetic coding of the Mandelbrot Set, and a little computer programming, tried to paint his own face with this bizarre universal programming system. The results look eerily human-faced, almost as if the human soul were given a layer of epidermis.

Skype Juxtapositions

Until teleportation becomes an option, Skype might be the best way to shorten the miles between us. New York-based photographer John Clang had that very thought as he projected Skype images of his overseas family in order to round out family portraits.