This week the goal was to take a step back and work not with technology, but against it (obviously still with, but, you know). My background in photography has always made my slightly fascinated by facial recognition. Particularly since the liquify tool on Photoshop started to incorporate facial recognition in order to streamline beauty retouching. This, as a tool, generally promotes problematic and harmful ideas around beauty, but can also be used to create somewhat monstrous manipulations of the face. I wanted to explore where this technology starts to break down – when does the manipulation stop registering as a face? When does my face stop being my face to something like google? The ultimate goal here is to make a photoshop action that would take a normal photo of a face and make it not recognizable as human or not identifiable as a specific person.
I started off by turning on the facial recognition in my google photos. It took the better part of a day to scrub through all of my photos (26,260), but once set up google auto configures as series of albums that are groupings of the same face. The first photos google has access to of me is from 2010, which as an interesting side note is 3-4 years before I started transitioning, but you can’t fool google!
Or can you???
I have been told in passing the the forehead and general symmetry of the face are the things to manipulate to try and confuse google computer vision so I made a few different liquify presets and then then reapplied it to the same photo and uploaded the results until google stopped recognizing the face as me. I liked the idea of using the facial recognition of photoshop to confuse the facial recognition of google so I wanted to keep the parameters to the parts of the face that can be directly targetting by photoshop.
(as an aside, the rediscovery of many photos from the last 10 years was not always pleasant, so I wouldn’t necessary recommend it as something to go into in and unconsidered way if you’re a person who may experience *feelings*)
run Once (still me)
Run Twice (STILL ME)
Run Three Times (NOT ME)
It took 5 rounds of this effect to get to a place where google wouldn’t see me.
A disturbing Gif:
ALL OF THEM REGISTERED AND THAT’S JUST BANANAS.
Here are the photoshop actions for people to play with themselves!
This experiment felt less insightful and more inspiring of more questions. Im curious as to what the results would be if I were to play with colour editing, or noise, or transparencies. It was surprising difficult, or rather, the warping effects felt as though they need to be quite extreme in order to be effective, which was unexpected. It feels as though there should be more errors if the parameters for what registers as my face is so broad, like other people should be getting caught in that net, but they are not. This is part of why I am curious about the manipulation of colour or noise in a photograph for potential further tests. When I was sharing the results with some friends one of them mentions that the eyebrow bridge between your eyes is very crucial in how our faces get read, but that part of the face is not targetable by the liquify panel so would be much harder to incorporate into an action.
- Information sources:
Photoshop’s 2015.5’s new Face Aware Liquify for Portrait Retouching – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyBGGuJhESU
- Next Steps:
It would be nice to make a site where people upload photos of themselves and get returned a series of results of their unidentifiable. Or maybe even simpler, just a gallery to upload other peoples photos two after they have run the actions in photoshop. I envisioned this primarily as a weird little art project, so it would be interesting to display the results together. If I was going to make it much larger I would try to incorporate some of the colour testing to get more interesting photo outputs and would be interested to do more precise testing to see if i can discover more information about exactly where the line for identifiability is.