Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Right? Even though everyone’s charmed by wildly different kinds of physical characteristics (thank goodness!), that hasn’t stopped our old friend science from stepping in and asserting truths about what we are biologically inclined to find appealing. Julian Wolkenstein was intrigued that those with symmetrical faces were widely seen as more attractive, and set out to consider the idea in a series of portraits that mirror both the left and right halves of an individual’s visage, resulting in two often quite different depictions of the same person.
"I like messing around with facial particulars," Wolkenstein tells Co.Design (a pleasure he also recently pursued in a project for the Museum of Helsinki’s Postiche Collection). In order to begin the unique de-and-reconstruction, he had to select his subjects. "They were real people, not models, with specific features that interested me." It’s remarkable how drastically their appearances change from one photo to the next, and it’s easy to imagine how strange it must be to see yourself with what essentially amounts to an entirely new visual identity. But the point of the project wasn’t necessarily to unsettle. "They can look at themselves in a new light," he says. "It’s a time to reflect."
Wolkenstein is still exploring the concept of Echoism, now with a way, way larger field. He launched an app where anyone can contribute their own self-pic, and it’s yielded an unexpected evolution of the project. For the artist, the most surprising part wasn’t, in fact, the varied results—it was the incredible response. "Over 40,000 people have uploaded images," he says. "I now have the largest collection of symmetrical portraits in the world."