Artist Alex John Beck is out to challenge people’s perceptions about beauty and perfection. Through his project Both Sides Of, the British-born Dutch-American photographer is debunking one of the most prevailing myths about beauty: symmetrical faces are more attractive.
Both Sides Of juxtaposes portraits of models whose faces have been photoshopped into mirror images of the left and right sides with spooky results.
“I think they lack character— beauty is more based on character than an arbitrary data point,” Beck explains. “Humanity is messy and should remain as such. I, for one, am not a fan of center-parting, for example. And even the greatest tennis players favor one arm.”
Beck shows the mirroring of both sides of the faces next to one another, without showing the original shot. He says it would have been a distraction and that “the original is just a boring portrait.”
In some cases, there was almost no difference between the left and the right-sided symmetry.
Since Beck works with models, some portraits showed very little change when it switched from left to right-sided symmetry.
However, one thing has continuously struck the artist: the eyes.
“You can just see that the competent character that we made for the right side of the face is a little more present than the one on their left side,” Beck says. “You can see it in the intensity of their vision.”
Beck illustrates the example with the photo above. “He looks completely identical, but the left eye confident is just a little more vacant, and there’s something very, very strange about that,” Beck says. “One side is completely present and alert and getting ready and interested, and the other side is half asleep.”
Although in some cases more takes have resulted in better portraits, this often has not been the case.
“After a few rounds of portraits I was introduced to several people who had suffered slight or severe disfigurements resulting in facial asymmetry,” Beck explains.
“In the specific case of the cross-eyed man, he is a dear friend and has generously been the subject of several experiments over the years,” Beck says. “I’ve sworn to him that the next one will be more flattering. It won’t.”
The reactions to the portraits have ranged from shock to fascination. Only one person wanted out and insisted the photos be removed.
Beck, however, is aware that the discomfort that comes when one is faced with the unexplored characteristics of your face.
“Someone asked if I ever did one of myself, and I answered ‘Yes,'” he says. “Is it out there? No. I’m not going to show it, and I don’t want to think about it. It’s depressing to even remember it.”