A Digital Artist Used AI To Show Us What Celebrities Who Died Young Would Look Like Today, And It’s Surprisingly Emotional


What if? It’s a question we all find ourselves asking from time to time. What if one thing or the other had or hadn’t happened? How different would our life be?

Well, Alper Yesiltas — a 39-year-old lawyer and digital photographer/artist — recently pondered that question in relation to his favorite celebrities. The result? A stunning photo series made using AI technology entitled “As If It Never Happened.”

Here are some of Alper’s most striking “What if?” photos of celebrities who died young:

1. Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car accident on August 31, 1997. She was 36.

Closeup of Princess Diana

This is what she might look like today if it had never happened. She would be 61.

Here are the two photos side by side:

Alper told BuzzFeed that he got the idea for the photo series when he became excited by the development of AI technology, and thought that with it “anything imaginable could be shown in reality. When I started tinkering with the technology, I saw what I could do and thought about what would make me the happiest. I wanted to see some of the people I missed again in front of me, and that’s how ‘As If Nothing Happened’ emerged.”

2. Heath Ledger died of acute intoxication from a combination of prescription drugs on January 22, 2008. He was 28.

headshot of Heath Ledger

This is what he might look like today if it had never happened. He would be 43.

Here are the two photos side by side:

3. Selena was murdered on March 31, 1995. She was 23.

Selena smiling at the Grammys

This is what she might look like if it had never happened. She would be 51.

Here are the two photos side by side:

4. Freddie Mercury died due to complications from AIDS on November 24, 1991.

Freddie Mercury onstage performing

This is what he might look like if it had never happened. He would be 77.

Here are the two photos side by side:

5. Amy Winehouse died of an alcohol overdose on July 23, 2011. She was 27.

Winehouse smiling and holding a mic

This is what she might look like if it had never happened. She would be 38.

Here are the two photos side by side:

In order to create these incredible images, Alper uses a variety of software and says that, while the amount of time he spends on each photo varies, they all take — as you likely imagine — “a while” to make.

6. Paul Walker died in a car accident on November 30, 2013. He was 40.

closeup of Paul Walker

Here are the two photos side by side:

7. The Beatles broke up in 1970. John Lennon was murdered on December 8, 1980. He was 40. George Harrison died of cancer on November 29, 2001. He was 58.

the Beatles sitting on the steps of a building

This is what John and George might look like if they were still with us and playing with Paul and Ringo. John would be 82; George would be 79.

Here are the two photos side by side:

8. Kurt Cobain died by suicide on April 5, 1994. He was 27.

black and white photo of Cobain

This is what he might look like if it had never happened. He would be 55.

Here are the two photos side by side:

According to Alper, “The most important part is making the image I’m processing feel realistic to me. Intentionally or unintentionally, I know a lot about the person I’m working with. Naturally the moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me feels ‘real.'”

9. Tupac Shakur died following a drive-by shooting on September 13, 1996. He was 25.

closeup of Tupac

Here are the two photos side by side:

10. Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970. She was 27.

Joplin laughing and holding a cigarette on a street corner

This is what she might look like if it had never happened. She would be 79.

black and white photo of Joplin smiling if she were alive today

Here are the two photos side by side:

Alper stresses that while the AI technology creates new opportunities to be creative, the human element is still needed to make something special. “Hardware and software help us to produce, but it’s the emotions that are decisive.”

11. Jimi Hendrix died of asphyxia on September 18, 1970. He was 27.

black and white photo of Hendrix

This is what he might look like if it had never happened. He would be 79.

a portrait of Hendrix if he were alive today

Here are the two photos side by side:

Putting your work out there for the world to see can be scary, but Alper and his project have received overwhelmingly positive feedback, including impressive social media engagement. “The response encouraged me a lot,” Alper said. “What pleases me the most is that there are more comments (perhaps tens of thousands) than I imagined ever before. I love reading them.”

12. Bruce Lee died of a cerebral edema on July 20, 1973. He was 32.

Lee smiling

This is what he might look like if it had never happened. He would be 81.

picture of Lee if he were alive today

Here are the two photos side by side:

13. And finally, Elvis Presley died from cardiac arrest on August 16, 1977. He was 42.

portrait of Elvis smiling

This is what he might look like if it had never happened. He would be 87.

Elvis if he were alive today

Here are the two photos side by side:

To keep up with Alper as he adds to his amazing series — and shares other incredible photos — follow him on Instagram.


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