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.