Photography and Neuroscience Combine to Form Ideal Self-Image

Curators’ Corner

Photography and Neuroscience Combine to Form Ideal Self-Image


When people look at photographic portraits of themselves, their immediate reaction is to notice every imperfection about their physical appearance. In a perfect world, all noses would be the same size, foreheads wrinkle-free and eyes eternally glowing. While that standard is obviously unattainable, a photographic experiment by artist Scott Chasserot recently provided a glimpse into humans’ ideal self-image by using photography, Photoshop Elements and neuroscience.

In Original Ideal, subjects were photographed staring expressionlessly into the camera. Then, each portrait was slightly modified up to 50 times on Photoshop by re-shaping a combination of features on the subjects’ faces. Eyes were enlarged, jaw-lines were lifted, eyebrows were straightened and hairlines were filled in. When editing was complete, the subjects were hooked up to an Emotiv EEG brain wave monitor and shown slides of every modified version of their original image.

Using the data from the brain scanner, Chasserot singled out the edited image that had the most positive impression on the brain and positioned it side by side with the original portrait. In every example, the difference between the two images was astonishing.

“We tend to hide our physical imperfections from others, and yet we simultaneously believe that vanity is a negative trait,” the Original Ideal website explains. “This psychological disparity makes it difficult to know what we’d change about ourselves if no one were looking. By using common neuroscience techniques, we can bypass this cognizant processing and obtain an image of how we would prefer to look before conscious thought got in the way. It’s a cerebral ideal of self-image.”

Chasserot is quick to admit his experiment isn’t a perfect indicator of ideal self-image, as certain steps might need to be modified.

“The methodology is still in pilot study phase. There is plenty to be improved upon. The ‘Ideal’ image is simply the one with the greatest positive reaction immediately after presentation and that cannot be distinguished from any theoretical, specific ‘ideal self’ reaction,” he told the Creator’s Project.

Despite these obstacles, the London-based artist believes the current process provides a relatively accurate representation of the distance between a person’s reality and ideal self.

Enjoy this behind the scenes video and selection of portraits from the project below. To learn more about Scott Chasserot’s other work, visit his website.




Images courtesy of Scott Chasserot