George Washington served as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797, but unlike modern-day politicians, there are no photos of him. In order to document his life, he patiently posed while his portrait was painted. These paintings—created by various esteemed 18th-century artists—are the only records we have that capture his likeness. In a bid to show how Washington might look if he were alive today, contemporary digital artist George Aquilla Hardy created a photorealistic image of him.
Hardy spent time studying Washington’s facial features and also searched for modern lookalikes online. According to the artist, he used “lots of source images of people with the correct features.” These references include “Glenn Close, Michael Douglas, a wax work of Washington, and Roger Williams.” He then used Photoshop to digitally render the final image. Hardy says, “He’s a blend of those people really, in reference to paintings of him.”
Hardy’s modern-day Washington looks just like a real person. You could never tell his face is actually a digital mash-up. After posting the image on Reddit, it quickly became viral—much to the surprise of the humble artist. “Firstly, thank you all for the amazing support and reaction to the image,” he wrote. “As an individual whom as a child said ‘I want to be an artist’ I’m really quite taken back by the response.” Hardy adds, “There are many things I would have done differently with the Washington image if I had known it would garner this kind of reaction, that said, this is the first time I have [endeavored] to create such an image, and publicly display it. Perhaps some day I will redo the Washington image with your feedback in mind.” The talented artist is already considering his next piece, and his work has even encouraged others to try their own versions.
Inspired by Hardy’s creation, Redditors eoford and when-the-fart both used face swap software to create their own present-day figures from American history. Eoford rendered a modern Abraham Lincoln and when-the-fart created Benjamin Franklin as if he were alive today. Both look eerily familiar, and some Redditors even commented that the Benjamin Franklin image looks like their high school principal. One Redditor called Akrob wrote, “Everyone had a principal that looked like this at some point.”
While all images are impressive, when-the-fart stresses that his version was pretty easy to make. “For those wondering how I did it, I found a decent looking painting and isolated the face, then used a face swap software to put it on a random politician's face,” they admit. “The software deserves most of the thanks here.”
Check out the present-day George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Benjamin Franklin below.
Artist George Aquilla Hardy used Photoshop to create a photorealistic image of George Washington as if he lived in the present day.
Not sure how to tell people I made the photorealistic George Washington picture so I’m awkwardly roaming the internet now. But… I made it. pic.twitter.com/gg44jscbdv
— George Aquilla Hardy (@GeorgeAquilla) May 2, 2021