Matrix Mirror Toward a Babel Archive


Session Title:

  • Photography and New Media

Presentation Title:

  • Matrix Mirror Toward a Babel Archive




  • Matrix Mirrors is a photographic project on human identity and about the way identity is associated with the image of the human face. It makes use of special mirrors (matrix mirrors), consisting of matrix of numbers, calculated by mathematical tools from a database of portraits, to construct human face images.

    How do we recognize a friend? What difference is there between my face and my neighbors’ face? What difference exists between a man and a woman’s face? Between an European and an African? What new information can I find in a new face of someone whom I have never seen before? All these are questions which Matrix Mirrors tries to address, trying to reach the essence of portrait photography and using a set of mathematical and scientific tools to work the image information. These questions are related with the very complex and sophisticated mechanisms that humans developed, creating specialized areas in the brain (just for faces), to get a quick and very efficient identification, based on a human face image.

    In Matrix Mirrors project 439 portraits were made in Oporto University: men and women from 18 to 65 years old. These face portraits were used to construct a face database. A set of mathematical and image processing tools were used to obtain essential sets of information from all those portraits, the so called components.

    What is more relevant is that adding those components in the right percentage, all portraits can be very rapidly constructed: only about 20 to 30 components are necessary to get a portrait which is recognizable by most people. Curiously the experiments indicate that for example women faces can be reconstructed from men and the opposite is also true, proving that human faces are in fact very similar, allowing an easy recuperation of essential components from a quite small database and a rapid reconstruction of any face, man or woman, European, Asian or African. Will it be possible  to construct a virtual portrait Babel Archive (a famous Borges’s story), containing all real and virtual human portraits?

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