Riveting Sets of Photographs Exploring Symmetry Through Dividing and Mirroring

Symmetrical features are said to be a benchmark of true beauty, but this startling project from British born, New York-based photographer John Alex Beck really does take the (Twix) biscuit. For his series, ‘Both Sides Of’, Beck took ten portraits; dividing each image into two, he made two sets of identical faces – one from the left half of the subject’s face, mirrored exactly to create a whole, and the other similarly rendered from the right. The necessary digital manipulation was done using photoshop, and reveals how pronounced even subtle differences become when the images are compared.

“This idea has been explored a fair number of times, but I felt the need to explore it myself,” Beck explains. “Just as most people will take a photograph of a sunset, even if the person next to them does exactly the same. Each portrait was its own memorable moment, as the familiar face unfolded its unfamiliar versions.” Working in the digital age makes this kind of experimentation possible, as shown by his recent series of dune edges, which he would never have taken had he been working with film, “I snapped them out of curiosity, and when I came back from the trip I was struck by their simplicity. Curiosity is a major guiding force, undoubtedly, so I appreciate the freedom to explore given by digital.”

The Plus: What camera/cameras and lens do you use?
John Alex Beck:
I use different cameras depending on the situation and the project. But for this series I used a Canon 5d Mk III with an 85mm 1.2 lens, shot at f8 with an umbrella over the camera, and a bounce card mounted at chest level.

TP: What challenge you the most when you take pictures?
Well, in somewhat response to the last question, it’s very important to get beyond light and camera and technique, as most viewers don’t really care about that. They either like an image or they don’t, and that usually has something to do with the most important factors of composition and emotion. If you can get those two right, you’ll usually have an interesting image, independent of the idea.

TP: What type of photography do you like and like to work on?
Photography is a unique art form in that it (mostly) captures things that are actually happening in front of the camera. In that sense photography can be about practically everything, and so I like pretty much all subject matter. As for my own work, I love portraits, of course, but sometimes it’s nice to just walk around your city or your house and let your eye wander.