Scott Chasserot Uses Art And Science To Find People’s Ideal Image Of Themselves

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Original Ideal from Scott Chasserot on Vimeo.

In his project Original/Ideal, British photographer Scott Chasserot tries to answer the question “What would we change about ourselves if no one were looking?” Using photography, image manipulation software, and an Emotiv EEG brain scanner, Chasserot’s project attempts to discover each individual’s ideal self-image without having the subject utter a word. It’s an interesting combination of art, science, and perception.

The first step of the process is to remove or reduce accessories and enhancements from the subject being photographed. Makeup is removed, hair is pulled back, clothes are adjusted so as not to appear in the frame—the goal is neutrality. The photograph is taken, then manipulated into 50 versions, each with tweaks to facial features, head shape, coloring, and more. The subjects are then hooked up to the Emotive scanner which records brain activity while they are shown the altered images. The scans are examined for signs of “engagement”—particular mental focus which Chasserot interprets to be a positive reaction. The image that produces the most positive brain reaction is thought to be the subject’s ideal version of his- or herself.

“What do we find instinctively beautiful in the human face, and how does this translate to self-image?”

It’s interesting that Chasserot equates an unvoiced preference to instinct. After all, even though the person’s reaction to his or her images is ungoverned, societal influences, cultural ideals, and pre-existing ideas about attractiveness are all learned, not instinctive.

“The methodology is still in pilot study phase,” Chasserot told The Creators Project. “There is plenty to be improved upon. The ‘Ideal’ image is simply the one with the greatest positive reaction immediately after presentation and that cannot be distinguished from any theoretical, specific ‘ideal self’ reaction.”

In the photos below, the original image is on the left and the chosen “ideal” version on the right.

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Andi Schreiber Documents Middle-Age And The Need To Be Desired

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Andi Schreiber refuses to disappear. In her ongoing series, “Pretty Please”, she documents life as an aging suburban mom in a youth-obsessed culture. “Middle-aged mom” must be one of the least sexy descriptors around, redolent of yoga pants and stretch marks and sun-damaged skin. Yet as the years have passed, Schreiber has continued to feel young and sexual, even as she’s felt that society has closed those roles to her. She says:

“When I was in my thirties I heard the expression “Invisible Forties.” I couldn’t imagine how sexually inconsequential I’d feel throughout this decade.”

The powerful documentary style photos in “Pretty, Please” beg you to look. Honest and vibrant, they are not always comfortable. Victoria’s Secret has trained us to expect sexy lingerie on a young, taut body, not on folded and stretched skin. And yet, why isn’t this just as beautiful? Grow old or die, those are the only options. Why can’t we appreciate the child-scarred body of a woman who wants to be seen?

Self-portraits are interspersed with images from Schreiber’s life. A drop of blood on the toilet seat symbolizes her ebbing fertility; the lit interior of her closet holds neatly hung clothes and shelves of shoes, but also, stashed up and away, naked kewpie dolls, whimsical and eerie.

“You get into your 40s and things are very different, your perspective changes, and the way the world looks at you changes as well.”

In “Pretty, Please” we’re looking at Andi Schreiber and she’s looking back. This is definitively her — her life, her body, her blood — and yet this desire to be seen, to be valued on her own terms, could also represent the scores of middle-aged women who chose family and stability and have had their sense of self sacrificed to their suburban houses, and diapers, and carpools.

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