Credit: Luca De Jesus Marques
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"Genealog.IA": when AI lets you search for your ancestors and your identity

26 September 2023 End of study projects
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With "Genealog.IA", his final thesis, Luca De Jesus Marques (Bachelor Photographer and Videographer, class of 2023) goes in search of his roots and his identity by reconstituting a lost genealogy by mixing Artificial Intelligence and old photographic processes.



Your project in a few words?

In this photographic project, I attempted to reconstruct the portraits of my ancestors whom I never knew and of whom no photographs remain.


To reconstruct my lineage, I fed an Artificial Intelligence system with self-portraits and very precise prompts about the person I wanted to represent, thus generating fictitious portraits.


Once the image had been chosen and retouched, I used old photographic processes, corresponding to the era in which the photo should have been taken, to develop it.



"Genealog.IA" - Barbato R - Fichiers bruts Midjourney -  Luca De Jesus Marques

"Genealog.IA" - Barbato R - Midjourney raw files - Luca De Jesus Marques

Why did you choose to use AI for your project?

I chose AI because it allowed me tofully embody my ancestors and to obtain an infinite number of variations, more or less subtle and credible, for each of the portraits.

As my creative process is based on a mix of "text to image"and "image to image", theAI uses my face as the basis for generating each proposal. I found this process relevant, as my face is the culmination of my genealogy.


I'm just a product of my ancestors, so I've inevitably inherited their physical characteristics, even if I'm well aware that the probabilities of total resemblance are slim.


"Genealog.IA" - Barbato R - tirage finale après retouches -  Luca De Jesus Marques

"Genealog.IA" - Barbato R - Final print after retouching - Luca De Jesus Marques

How did you come up with the idea of combining AI with ancient photographic processes?

I've always wanted to work with old photographic processes. This project allowed me to do just that.

They allowed me toanchor each portrait in a specific period. These techniques also have the advantage of bringing slight defects to the image, like silver grain for example. They perfectly counterbalance the very smooth appearance of the AI image.


All these printing techniques have given me a much richer rendering and made my work more credible from a historical and photographic point of view.




"Genealog.IA"  - tirages ferrotypes -  Luca De Jesus Marques

"Genealog.IA" tintype prints Luca De Jesus Marques

What photographic techniques did you use?

I used three old processes:

  • the silver print: for this, I used old papers available at the school, some of which date back to the 80s;

  • I then made an Aristotype and a Ferrotype, two very old techniques based on collodion, a sort of ancestor of gelatin that acts as a binder between the photosensitive layer of the emulsion and the chosen support.



"Genealog.IA"  - technique tirages ferrotypes -  Luca De Jesus Marques

"Genealog.IA" - Tintype print technique - Luca De Jesus Marques

Why did you choose to work on the themes of filiation and identity for this project?

I'm the son of two immigrants, and the first generation in both my families to be born in France. I've always felt uprooted, accentuated by the many moves I made during my childhood. There are very few, if any, photographs of my family before my parents' generation.


This lack of family memory has always been very heavy for me. I think it's necessary to know where you come from to really know who you are. This project is my way of filling that gap.




"Genealog.IA" - Composition -  Luca De Jesus Marques

"Genealog.IA" - Composition - Luca De Jesus Marques

What were your references and inspirations for the project?

Essentially Michel Journiac, and in particular his "Hommage à Freud" series. For the rest, I drew a lot of my inspiration from old prints I found at flea markets and from the Ferrotype collection at the Musée Européen de la photo in Bièvre.



You've just been published in the special AI issue of Fisheye magazine. What do you see as the next step in the project?

I'd like to turn it into a photo book. I'm looking for a graphic designer and a publisher.

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