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Ulric Collette's "Genetic Portraits" fuse family members' faces

Genetic Portraits

Genetics are kind of crazy, aren’t they? Somehow, filtered through infinite chains of protein codons, I wound up with my mom’s eyes and my dad’s stubbornly straight hair, a strong resemblance to either parent obscured by vague similarities to both. In his new photo series, “Genetic Portraits,” Quebecois photographer, Ulric Collette, elucidates the jumbled likenesses – both obvious and subtle – between family members by splitting their faces and digitally fusing them together. Occasionally, it seems as if he’s fashioned entirely new relatives, Frankenstein-style, in the process.

The project, straightforward in concept as well as execution (Collette simply connects the two photos together in Photoshop), produced some truly spellbinding results. Often, the faces of close relatives – twins, for example, or mothers and daughters – combine to make images I couldn’t immediately recognize as composites. Sometimes the effect is more like looking into a time warp, the younger version on one side and the older on the other (as in one memorable composite of Ulric and his seven-year-old son, Nathan). Certain images, however, draw attention to dissimilarities more than likenesses, particularly in those pairing distant relatives, or men and women.

Beyond my fascination with the vast and surprising array of nostril sizes represented in the series, Collette’s project offers a unique lens for examining the genetic traits that distinguish us and our families. That said, I never want to visually encounter something that combines my father’s famously pointy nose with my chipmunk cheeks.