Industry News

Photographer Uses AI to Bring Dead Celebrities to Life

September 29, 2022

By Hillary K. Grigonis

Photos: Instagram/Alper Yesiltas

Photographer Yesiltas Alper used AI to re-imagine what these dead celebs might look today (l to r): Heath Ledger, George Harrison and Janis Joplin.

What would celebrities like Elvis Presley, Princess Diana, or Michael Jackson look like today if they hadn’t died young? That’s the idea behind the AI series by photographer Alper Yesiltas titled, “As If Nothing Happened.” In the series, the photographer uses artificial intelligence and photo editing software to re-imagine what several celebrities would have looked like in the 2020s.

In an article he wrote for Bored Panda, Yesiltas explains that the series is based on the idea of recreating how people would look if a major event hadn’t happened to them. Yesiltas—who is based in Istanbul, Turkey, where he is also a lawyer—says that he used several software programs to create the images.

[Read: AI-Generated Stock Photos of People: Time to Worry?]

“With the development of AI technology, I’ve been excited for a while, thinking that ‘anything imaginable can be shown in reality,’” he wrote. “When I started tinkering with technology, 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.”

The photographer says that the time spent on each image varies, but that he works on them until he reaches the point where the images feel “real” to him. To achieve that, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini. So far, the images include rapper Tupac Shakur, Elvis Presley, Bruce Lee, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Michael Jackson, Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Freddie Mercury, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Princess Diana.

Alper says he’s been shooting photos for about 19 years, including publication in books, magazines, exhibitions, websites and photo contests. His work, which often favors cinematic teal and orange tones, also includes street photography and conceptual artwork.

Artificial intelligence is often met with criticism when it intersects modern art. Critics point out the ethics of computer-based art (and the issue of copyrights), while supporters consider A.I. just another tool that still requires an artist’s vision. Many recent features in photo editing platforms, like Select Subject inside Adobe Lightroom, are based on A.I. while camera features like eye AF have similar roots.

Photos: Instagram/Alper Yesiltas