Face Of The Future: Artist Turns Strangers DNA Into 3D Printed Portraits

Category: Technology / Jun 26, 2013 11:58AM EDT

In the year 2013 it’s almost impossible to know how much personal data we accumulate every day and even harder to know who has unbridled access to this information.

Heather Dewey-Hagborg refers to herself as an ‘Information Artist,’ and she wants you to think about the footprint you leave behind; not just your Internet usage, cell phone records, or your banking activity, but also your DNA and genetic code.


At a presentation in Brooklyn, Heather displayed a few of her 3D printed portraits, along with the actual sample her portrait was based on and a picture of the sample site.


Heather’s process may be complicated, but it takes just 2-3 weeks to complete a portrait.


Heather admits her 3D portraits are not one hundred percent accurate, comparing them more to a family likeness or the result of an amateur sketch artist.

But human DNA does provide information about a person’s physical traits, giving her enough information to piece together a face eerily similar to the original source.  


Heather’s DNA portraits of strangers raise questions about privacy and Heather says, ‘that’s just the point.’


On the day I spoke with Heather, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that it was illegal to patent human genes, a decision she happily applauded.


Genetic surveillance is a relatively new concept, but it could have dramatic repercussions in various professional fields, including law enforcement, a concept Heather is not fully comfortable with.