While this is a bit creepy, the idea is very cool.  Wonder if anyone will recognize themselves.

If there is one thing that should seriously worry us in this digital era, it has to be the amount genetic traces that we frequently leave behind in our daily endeavors. Think of the gum that you chewed and dropped aimlessly, the cigarette butt that you threw off or the fallen strand of your hair. These are just some of the footprints that can be used to depict and trace the real you as a talented information artist, Heather Dewey, shows in a series of life-like 3D portraits.

In a project titled, ‘Stranger Visions’ the Brooklyn-based artist shows how a single trace of DNA can be used to basically dig out hereditary traits that bear family resemblance to the original owner. She incredibly does this, even though she admits that it is virtually next to impossible to come up with a person’s exact looks.


The original idea about this project came to Dewey-Hagborg during a therapy session where she noticed a strand of hair placed on a crack in a picture. With her knowledge in forensics and the cultures that surround the practice, it instantly hit her that she could create life-like 3D model faces of anonymous New Yorkers by using samples of their DNA gathered from items that they discarded in their everyday lives such as cigarette butts, gums and strands of fallen hair.


In kick starting the project, Dewey-Hagborg began the journey of cracking the intrinsic code of human genome by collecting hair found on a pair of rubber gloves. She also gathered hairs from a public toilet at Penn Station. She then expanded her search to gathering fingernails, discarded chewing gums and cigarette butts in various public places from her home in Brooklyn through to New York City.  These would be enough to dig out genetic traits such as skin complexion, eye color, hair color, gender and ethnicity.


Image Source: deweyhagborg.com


Image Source: deweyhagborg.com


Image Source: deweyhagborg.com

Even though New Yorkers are used to individuals doing peculiar things, her odd activity seemed creepy to them. She was however, unperturbed as she knew that her project would help the world understand more about DNA technology and the cultures of forensics. The electronic arts student extracted DNA from the every item she had collected with her focus being on particular genomic parts of the items. She then entered these specific data into a computer program that produced life-like model faces of the original owners of the DNA.

With these facial models, Dewey-Hagborg produced tangible sculptures of these individuals’ faces using an advanced 3D printer. This led to the birth of the ‘Stranger Visions,’ a series that displays these 3D life-sized portraits beside their original DNA samples, as well as data about them and photographs of the places where they were found.