Photog Uses Face Paint to Create Stunning Portraits that Look Two-Dimensional


The 2D or Not 2D series isn’t the first time Russian photographer Alexander Khokhlov has dabbled in painting his models faces and taking striking portraits of the results. His Weird Beauty series got quite popular, with black and white designs jumping out at you from the faces of his made-up models.

2D or Not 2D, however, is different — and not just because he used color this time. It’s different because the point of each photo is to trick your mind into thinking you’re looking at a two-dimensional painting.

If the idea sounds familiar, that’s because Alexa Meade does something similar using entire scenes. Khokhlov’s series is different though, because it intentionally straddles the line between painting and reality, playing tricks on your mind, whereas Meade intends to fully convince you you’re looking at a painting and not a photograph.

The portraits in 2D or Not 2D sometimes look quite painted, and optical illusions frequently play a role in making you wonder if you’re looking at a two-dimensional object. But the majority of the photos give themselves away on purpose by leaving the models’ eyes open — two pools of reality in an otherwise two dimensional-looking object.

Here’s a look at the whole series:











As with Weird Beauty, Khokhlov teamed up with Valeriya Kutsan, one of the best make-up artists in Russia, to create the designs on the models’ faces. To see more from Khokhlov, head over to our previous coverage of the Weird Beauty series or check out his website by clicking here.

(via Visual News)

Image credits: Photographs by Alexander Khokhlov and used with permission.

  • Ygor Oliveira

    Mind = blown.

  • kongs12

    Ummmm, as a photograph, it is already two-dimensional.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    Fascinating stuff. How many photographers and make-up artists out there ‘shop their models like this -before- the photograph is even taken?

  • Tor Ivan Boine

    you´ll get an upvote and a downvote from me for that comment :)

  • Genkakuzai

    Great stuff!

  • kongs12

    lol! It was more a statement regarding the writer than the photographer. I appreciate art; but I would appreciate a writer understanding the difference between 2D and 3D.

  • Tor Ivan Boine

    based on that, you say that 3d-games is 2d? ;)

  • Julian Callan

    Amazing make-up, really shows how photography can be improved through collaboration with different arts.

  • Bruce wenner

    That was the first thing that popped into my head just from reading the title.

  • vilo


  • Adol


  • Matthew Neumann

    Major props to the makeup artist.

  • alreadyupsidedown


  • Bill Chan

    I guess they are okay. Mind blowing? no.. they are great portraits but if they are not straight out from the camera (post production) it is just another technique to create digital painting like using a wacom.

  • Mark Wheadon

    Post production? It’s pre-production — painted onto the model with paint, not painted onto the pixels with Photoshop.

  • kongs12

    What I am saying is a photograph is two-dimensional. It has only height and width measurements. 3D games require glasses to provide the third dimension – depth.

  • Bill Chan

    I am sure there were tweaks here and there.

  • tomdavidsonjr

    I think this is great, but the comments from detractors like Bill Chan ^ go straight to one of my biggest peeves.

    I am SO done with the SOOC crowd! This notion that seems to have infected a bunch of my colleagues (that a photographer who manipulates his own work after the shutter closes is somehow “less than” the SOOC photographer), lowers these snobs to a whole new level of a$$hat. Photography as an art, exists to convey the mind and the vision of the photographer – before, during and AFTER the button is pressed. Even journalistic photography, through editorial choice of “the right image”, conveys someone’s message and vision.

    These same SOOC snobs might spend hours getting the lighting rig, posing, camera angle and background just right – all forms of artistic manipulation – and then claim that their work is so much more authentic that that of a digital artist who does the same thing after the image is cast. SOOC is A type of photography. It is ABSOLUTELY not the only type of photography that has legitimacy in our field, nor is it even the best, the hardest to achieve nor the most creative.

    I confronted a friend and fellow photographer once who was of the SOOC cult/gulag, and asked about the vitriolic, knee-jerk reaction she (and the rest of her ilk) has towards heavily Photoshopped artistic photography. After much going around, it came down to this: she just didn’t have the Photoshop skills. I have yet to find a SOOC noisemaker who has real Photoshop chops.

    SOOC has a place in photography. It does NOT have the place in photography that its advocates think it has.

  • Ray

    wow…these are incredible

  • nomics

    Cool story

  • Christian DeBaun

    Lovely, creative work. Thanks.

  • Mark Wheadon

    It’s also the case that modern cameras do a fair bit of processing of the image after the shutter closes. It’s all a matter of degree, and there are subtleties at the margins. Hell, BOKEH and narrow-depth-of-field effects of a photo (to take just two examples) are hardly natural, they’re an artifact of the way a camera works, as is taking moving object / people and freezing them in time, and so on.