Photographer uses AI to imagine how dead famous people would look today

As if nothing happened
(Image credit: Alper Yeşiltaş)

A Turkish photographer has started using AI technology and photo editing software to create lifelike images of dead celebrities. In the series, 'As If Nothing Happened', Alper Yeşiltaş has reimagined what celebrities would've looked like today had they not died prematurely – and the results are incredibly believable. 

AI technology is fast becoming a crucial part of photography – may that be for facial recognition, culling photos or even generating photorealistic images using systems such as DALL•E 2 or Midjourney. There has been some concern and criticism regarding AI-generated images, and some photographic websites (including Getty) have banned them entirely, but Yeşiltaş has found a way to use AI images for good. 

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Yeşiltaş first shared his project with the world in an article he published on Bored Panda, where he explained how it came about and why he wanted to create the images. "I saw what I could do and thought about what would make me the happiest. I wanted to see some of the people I missed again in front of me and that's how this project emerged."

So far Yeşiltaş has reimagined how ten famous people would look if they were still alive today, including the much-loved Princess Diana, The Dark Knight and 10 Things I Hate About You star Heath Ledger, who died from an accidental overdose, and Queen's musical mastermind, Freddie Mercury, who died aged 45 from pneumonia as a result of AIDS.

Many of the celebrities whose faces Yeşiltaş has recreated died far too young in tragic, unexpected deaths that left the world in shock. Although these photos are a sad reminder of what could've been, they also provide a use for AI that could bring comfort to people who have lost loved ones. 

While the response to these images has been mostly positive, Princess Diana's photo has caused a stir and several Instagram users have dubbed it an insult to her memory. The reason is, Yeşiltaş has claimed he has reimagined what people would look like in the 2020s, making Princess Diana 61 years old, whereas the AI photo does make her look older. It's still incredibly well done, but perhaps more consideration is needed when aging such prominent public figures. 

With the uses of AI continually evolving, questions around its ethics and place in photography are constantly arising. While some people believe that AI-generated images do have a place in the photographic world, others believe that these Images should be looked upon as digital art. If anything Yeşiltaş has proved that AI imagery can look incredibly realistic if you put enough time into it, but AI by itself is not enough – not yet anyway.

To see more of Alper Yeşiltaş' incredible work, check out his Instagram page

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.