Meet the Kerala man who is reviving history with selfies from the past

Selfies of Mahatma Gandhi, Queen Margaret, Jesus Christ, Che Guevera, B R Ambedkar and Bob Marley among others have been created through artificial intelligence. Photo: Instagram | Jyo John Mulloor

Malayali artist Jyo John Mulloor became an overnight sensation after he posted on his Instagram the 'selfies' taken by the world's historical figures created using artificial intelligence. Jyo's selfie collection includes photos 'taken' by the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Queen Margaret, Jesus Christ, Che Guevera, B R Ambedkar and Bob Marley. Ever since the images went viral, the number of his followers on Instagram has shot up. Among his followers is Tamil film director Vignesh Sivan.

The self-taught artist, who is currently residing in Dubai with his family, shared with Onmanorama how he started working on the project and why he thinks designers and traditional artists need to embrace Artificial Intelligence at the earliest.

Did you expect this kind of reception for your work?

Not exactly. Last year, I brought out a series, in which I used artificial intelligence to imagine how it would be if it snowed in the UAE. Also, I created an imagery of Dubai filled with lush greenery, as a Martian city and even how it would look like Pandora, the sci-fi city created by James Cameron in Avatar. I used the four colours of the UAE flag to design the images. It received a lot of praise and appreciation from the Dubai government and the public. I have been behind the selfie series for the past six months.

What inspired you to do the series?

It stemmed from my curiosity. I always wondered how these inspiring leaders would have looked if they had a chance to take a selfie. It was also my way of contributing to society because I wanted to remind today's youngsters of such historical figures from the past.

When the work was generated using AI, what is our role as an artist here?

Though all the selfies were generated through AI, we need to have sufficient awareness about such leaders to create the selfies. For example, Mahatma Gandhi's selfie was taken during the salt satyagraha. I had to be very acute about the information. Also, Queen Margaret was someone who loved dressing up and using a lot of jewellery. I wanted these specifics in my images. Also, though all these images are created through AI, I had to ensure none of the people posing with these leaders in the selfies are the same. That required a lot of work. I also had to ensure perfection for all these leaders who are pictured in the selfie. That was a difficult task, but I enjoyed the process.

Were you trained in digital art?

I never received any formal training in the arts. My father was a police officer and he was not particularly keen that either of my siblings take up the arts. There was a certain prejudice at that time. However, it has changed now. I started working as an artist purely out of passion.

What is the scope of Artificial Intelligence for artists today?

I think 60 per cent of traditional artists fear that artificial intelligence will pose a threat to their work. I believe it rather makes our work easier and every artist should make use of this opportunity to create something unique for themselves. It is hugely possible with the help of artificial intelligence.

What are your future plans?

I plan to continue my selfie series for some more time. Also, I plan to use this system to understand and imagine how life would be on other planets, apart from the earth that we inhabit.

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