Perfectly Symmetrical Portraits Show that a Symmetrical Face is Not Always Beautiful


New York-based photographer Alex John Beck began his series Both Sides Of in order to explore two beliefs. First, that perfectly symmetrical faces are the most beautiful. And second, that one face is representative of one character.

The final photographs, displayed as pairs of symmetrical portraits that show what the subject would look like if you simply mirrored their left or right sides, seem to indicate that neither of these beliefs holds true.

You see, when Beck created his portrait pairs he discovered two different characters, neither of which was necessarily more beautiful than the normal, non-symmetrical person. In fact, the symmetry often comes across as creepy… subtly inhuman.

Sometimes the two portraits looked similar, other times like siblings who look very much alike, but are still easily distinguishable.


In real life, explains Beck in the project’s statement, we see the middle area of the Venn diagram above. A mishmash of two characters that come together to create an unsymmetrical, unique composite. But when you take away that center portion and focus on only one circle at a time, the person’s duality emerges.

Here’s a selection of photographs from the series:










“Within these new forms we see the two characters that are ever-present, embedded in the single face,” writes Beck. “The less symmetrical they are initially, the more different the characters suggested by each face. The more symmetrical faces betray their owners more subtly, however, one side proves clearer, the other more inward-looking.”

To see more of Beck’s work, or if you’d like to follow his day-to-day adventures, head over to his website or follow him on Instagram by following the corresponding links.

(via Gizmodo)

Image credits: Photographs by Alex John Beck and used with permission

  • harumph

    Julian Wolkenstein did this exact same project and got a lot of attention for it a few years ago. Petapixel did a story on it. Even the artists statements are nearly identical (except for the embarrassing and meaningless Venn diagram shown here). Also, it probably goes without saying that if you’re actually attempting to prove that asymmetrical faces are more attractive, then you have to show the asymmetrical faces in your project, as Wolkenstein did.

  • David Vaughn

    I have to agree. I’m having a hard time seeing unattractive people in these portraits. I would have to see the original image to have a “control” to compare these to.

    I’m more curious about how the third guy’s grey beard, yet perfectly brown hair. lol

  • David Liang

    I think this project is only successful in proving that we can’t generalize things as subjective as taste and beauty. I also don’t think he mirrored the faces correctly, nearly half the images have necks of different sizes between the pairs. That certainly plays a part in how a face is perceived. The final image the guys eyes are crossed, even if the face had the potential to be beautiful, crossing the eyes will change that perception.
    It anything it also shows how hard it is to objectively explore beauty with a method that quantifies aesthetics.

  • Paula

    The mirroring is awful. And some are edited or different pictures, I’m not sure, because if you cover up half of the face in both portraits it never corresponds exactly the the other picture.

  • David Liang

    LOL that’s funny, I didn’t notice that until you mentioned it. He’s gotta be using just for men…or just…interesting genetics.

  • Erik

    This is pretty bad… The last two pictures make a complete mockery of anything resembling a “study” and turn it into a situation where the originator is clearly making the outcome suit the hypothesis. Of course I could be wrong, maybe mirroring an image left to right (vice right to left which makes you lovely) makes the proportion of your head size relative to your neck vastly different and makes you cross eyed. I also suppose your nose gets 20% wider and your eyes magically become significantly closer together.

    There is no control here which makes this “art” instead of anything resembling an actions which could be used to modify our ideals or perceptions.

    I wonder if my left or right side is my “fat neck, cross eyed” side?

  • Petter

    If you cross your eyes looking at the pairs it almost appears to be 3D. For what ever that’s worth.

  • Jim Macias

    I can’t believe this hack study got green-lighted.

  • guille

    Who said that symmetry alone accounts for beauty?
    Seriously… do you think Orcs portrayed by CGI in movies are asymmetrical?

  • Bill Zalenski

    I actually have that… beard is almost totally grey and hardly any gray in my hair so far!

  • harumph

    There’s no “study” and nobody greenlit anything. This is just a photographer copying another photographer’s work and pretending he’s doing something socially relevant.

  • Andrew

    How did this rubbish make it onto Petapixel?

  • marcrogoff

    My god there are some miserable people commenting here….chill out and go and take some photos!

  • David


  • Kaybee

    Can you please explain the appearance of pimples for me?

  • dan110024

    Nope! Someone has already chilled out before and I believe they took photos too. You’re only going to make a mockery of it all!

  • Coop

    I don’t think this is accurate.

  • Mik Rose

    The girl with her eyes closed looking down i think looks better. Her face is more angular and cheekbone are higher. Pretty cool pictures.

  • dustin dowell

    I think the “ugly” ones are because some of these pictures look like the person’s head wasn’t straight and head on facing the camera.. and head tilt wasn’t even accounted for in post process… despite that, most don’t look bad at all.

  • ChristianDemocrat727

    Making the face symmetrical somehow magically stretches her face horizontally giving her a masculine jaw, and also magically brushes her eyebrow hair up in the center in a most unappealing way. Oh and in another photo gives the model acne. Totally not fitting the data to match the hypothesis.

  • mokleTkcuF

    Yep also, my beard started going grey in my early 20’s, but I still have a mostly full head of brown hair in my 40’s

  • Coop

    So wrong lol. Bad centering and junk. Her head is tilted slightly I think. It’s just quite inaccurate.

  • Vin Weathermon

    Agree; how are we to know what is “less attractive” without the original? Seems like a wasted exercise without it. And few here look unattractive enough in their symmetrical pairs to get excited about.

  • clair estelle

    such an interesting portrait photography series!

  • JoanieGranola

    I’m not sure he intentionally crossed the eyes. I’m guessing that particular model had a lazy or inward turned eye and by mirroring the half of the face, it resulted in the eyes appearing crossed. I think the project iss interesting, but by the end I feel as Paula does — the mirroring could be done a little more precisely. And it would be nice to see the control of the person as they are in reality.

  • Tzctplus -

    This is a comments section you know, where people, uhm, post their thoughts.

  • Fed Up with weirdos like you

    anyone with a critical eye will see that this story is without merit….completely without… thank you

  • Facepalm

    Pseudo-science defined

  • Facepalm

    Oh, well, you know, how all the other rubbish makes it on?