Selfless Portraits, created by Jeff Greenspan and Ivan Cash, gives strangers the opportunity to artistically recreate each other’s profile pictures. In short, it’s your chance to become a stranger’s muse.
The entire process is “extremely intimate,” the creators tell Mashable.
“It is asking people to do a lot of work, but it makes you very vulnerable,” Greenspan says. “It’s about looking at another human being, stopping for a moment, going offline and interpreting their image. It’s a really powerful experience.”
The idea was sparked almost a year ago when Cash realized the tangible emotion connected with simple snail mail, and how that same intimacy is often stripped away in the social networking world. Cash and Greenspan set out with producer Luis Pena and developer Rally Interactive to help bring some of that pre-21st-century charm back to a profile page.
Launched in February, the site already has more than 12,000 portraits with users from 91 different countries. The portrait process begins when a user submits their image to the site’s database. From there, the user is assigned another member’s photo to recreate. The “give a picture, take a picture” system ensures there are enough artists for the demand, the creators explain.
Any extent of artistic ability is accepted, Greenspan says, as long as it shows some good-faith effort.
“We’re really excited about people who don’t identify as artists getting into it. Even if they just apply a Photoshop filter [to the image], it’s their creative addition,” Cash adds.
After receiving their portrait, the user is given the option to friend the artist on Facebook. Greenspan and Cash say that while it’s not required, they have heard plenty of stories of long distance friendships forming via simple artistic expressions. They hope that, in this sense, art can help build small but powerful bridges between countries not necessarily known for their camaraderie.
The artwork has also gone above and beyond the expectations of either of the creators, they say. Everything from bottle cap and q-tip crafts resembling their subject to cartoon remakes have been turned in (check out some of the best pictures in the gallery above). But Cash and Greenspan are pretty sure the best is yet to come.
“We’re still waiting for someone to get a tatoo of their subject’s face,” Cash says.