Expatica Pattern

The future face of Amsterdam

Last update on December 03, 2018

Have you ever wondered what people might look like in the future? Photographer Mike Mike did and reveals what the face of Amsterdam might look like…

Have you ever wondered what people might look like in the future? Photographer Mike Mike did. And here’s what the face of Amsterdam might look like:

The concept is simple: Mike goes to a city and photographs people. He then uses morphing software to merge the photos into a single composite image – the face of the future.

“You end up with a face that could be said to be representative of the future of that city.”

Underground inspiration

Although Mike has photographed over 30 cities to date, the project originally began in London.

“I was sitting on the underground train and looking at all these people from all around the world and thinking: what does it mean to be a Londoner when you’ve got Somalis, Brazilians, Polish… you’ve got everything here… yet they’re all here, living and working – they’re all Londoners. So what is a Londoner? What if you could somehow combine these people and project into the future what a typical Londoner would look like?”

Four facial degrees of separation

According to Mike, one of the most interesting things about the project is how quickly people begin to look like their fellow citizens.

“If you take a random selection of 16 males and 16 females in one city, completely unrelated to each other, those two faces somehow resemble each other, like they’re brother and sister. So you know that you’ve come up with something that does accurately reflect that place. It’s very, very strange. And it takes so few faces for us to start to resemble each other. Even after 4 or 8 faces those averages are already starting to look like each other. There’s just so little separating us it’s amazing.”

 Morphing layout, CineSESC 35, São Paulo

Disappointment in Amsterdam

Mike says his portrait of Amsterdam was actually a little disappointing.

“You read about Amsterdam and they say that the most common first name is now Mohammed and that the city is 40% this and 60% that, and it’s an incredibly diverse city. Yet Vondelpark on a Sunday afternoon just didn’t reflect that.”

For an Amsterdammer, this wouldn’t be terribly surprising – the neighbourhood around the Vondelpark is predominantly white upper-middle class. If Mike had gone just a few blocks further west the face would probably have been completely different.

“It just shows you just how specific each 100 metres is, each time of day. If I’d have gone on another day it would have been different. Or at another time. You could be on a double-decker bus in London and the face would be completely different on the first floor than the second floor all the older people are downstairs and all the young people go upstairs.”

 Face of Tomorrow, Istanbul, Yeditepe University

Controversy in Istanbul

Whereas Mike was disappointed in the lack of multi-cultural faces in Amsterdam, Istanbul turned out to be a little too multi-cultural. At least, for the Turkish.

“The place that I went to was a working-class area where a lot of the people were Kurdish, not Turkish. So Turkish people were constantly writing to me saying ‘This is not a Turkish face, this is a Kurdish face. Why are you showing this face?’ And I had to keep saying that it’s not the whole of Istanbul, it’s just that one area at that time and in 10 years that place will be different.”

In the end, Mike went back and did a second shoot at a university. That time he ended up with a Turkish face.


Ashleigh Elson
Radio Netherlands






Photo credit: Mike Mike (faces), Public Domain Pictures (tulips).