Photographer uses AI to ‘raise’ stars from the dead

A photographer has used artificial intelligence (AI) to show what celebrities like Princess Diana, Kurt Cobain and John Lennon would look like if they were still alive today.

Photographer Alper Yesiltaswho is based in Istanbul, Turkey, created the hyper-realistic portraits for a project titled “As if nothing had happened.”

For the project, Yesiltas used AI photo enhancement software and photo editing programs to visually resurrect stars who died young and bring them back to life.

Princess Diana was killed in Paris aged 36 after the Mercedes-Benz she was driving crashed while being chased by paparazzi in the early hours of August 31, 1997.
Kurt Cobain was found dead on April 5, 1994 at his home in Seattle after shooting himself in the head at the age of 27.
Beatles singer John Lennon was shot and killed outside The Dakota in New York on December 8, 1980 at the age of 40.

“With the development of AI technology, I was excited for a while, thinking that anything imaginable can be shown in reality,” Yesiltas writes of the project.

“When I started tinkering with technology, I saw what I could do and thought about what would make me happiest. I wanted to see some of the people I missed in front of me again and that’s how this project came to be,” he says.

Yesiltas adds, “Behind this project is the question of what people would look like photorealistically if big events hadn’t happened to them.”

In “As If Nothing Happened”, Yesiltas reimagines celebrities who died at young ages, often in tragic circumstances, and portrays them as if they are still alive today. With the help of AI technology, he has created eerily realistic portraits of cultural icons such as Tupac Shakur, Heath Ledger, Janis Joplin and Michael Jackson.

Tupak Shakur died aged 25 in Las Vegas from gunshot wounds on September 13, 1996
Actor Heath Ledger died of an accidental drug overdose on January 22, 2008 at the age of 28.
Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970 at the age of 27
Michael Jackson died of acute propofol and benzodiazepine poisoning at his Los Angeles home on June 25, 2009 at the age of 50.

Yesiltas says one of the hardest parts of the creative process was making his images of these stars look realistic.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image ‘real’ to me. The moment I love the most is when I think the image in front of me looks very realistic as if it had been taken by a photographer,” he explains.

To make the images as real as possible, Worthy reports that Yesiltas has incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as AI Remini photo enhancement software.

Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury died of bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS on November 24, 1991 at his London home aged 45.
Jimi Hendrix died of a drug overdose on September 18, 1970 at the age of 27
Elvis Presley, who suffered from heart trouble and diabetes, died on August 16, 1977 at the age of 42

However, the photographer says it can take a long time before he feels the portrait looks authentic.

“I use various software. The time it takes me to create a fully finished image varies,” he says. “But I would say it takes a while for an image to feel ‘real’ to me.”


Picture credits: All pictures of Alper Yesiltas.

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