Photographer Uses AI to ‘Resurrect’ Stars From the Dead

Lennon, Jackson, Diana

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 Yesiltas, who is based in Istanbul, Turkey, created the hyper-realistic portraits for a project titled “As If Nothing Happened.”

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

Princess Diana was killed in Paris at the age of 36 after the Mercedes-Benz she was riding in crashed while being pursued by paparazzi in the early hours of August 31, 1997
Kurt Cobain was found dead on April 5, 1994 at his Seattle home after a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head at the age of 27
Beatles singer John Lennon was fatally shot outside the Dakota in New York City on December 8, 1980 at the age of 40

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

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

Yesiltas adds “Behind this project lies the question of how would people look photo-realistically if some great events had not happened to them.”

In “As If Nothing Happened,” Yesiltas reimagines celebrities who died at a young age, often in tragic circumstances, and depicts them as if they were still living now. With the help of AI technology, he has created eerily lifelike portraits of cultural icons like Tupac Shakur, Heath Ledger, Janis Joplin, and Michael Jackson.

Tupak Shakur died at the age of 25 in Las Vegas from gunshot wounds on September 13, 1996
Actor Heath Ledger died as the result 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 intoxication at his Los Angeles home on June 25, 2009 at the age of 50

Yesiltas says that one of the most challenging parts of the creative process was making his images of these stars appear photo-realistic.

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

To make the images as real looking as possible, Upworthy reports that Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

Queen lead vocalist Freddie Mercury died from bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS on November 24, 1991 at his home in London at the age of 45
Jimi Hendrix died of a drug overdose on September 18, 1970 at the age of 27
Elvis Presley, who suffered from heart troubles and had 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 am using various software programs. The time it takes for me to create one fully finished image varies,” he says. “But I would say it takes a while for an image to feel ‘real’ to me.”

Image credits: All photos by Alper Yesiltas.