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04 March 2020

The Futurists Redefining What it Means to be Human

04 March 2020 - Written by Laurence Cornet

Art director Gem Fletcher attended a few meetings in London called the futurists meetup, where people discuss what the future holds for humanity. Fascinated by the subject, she involved photographer David Vintiner, and they started to investigate people who decide on their own evolution.

© David Vintiner, from the series Futurists

“Transhumanists are a group of individuals harnessing the power of tech to transcend our human biology”, photographer David Vintiner and art director Gem Fletcher introduce their project, Futurists. Their 5-year long research covers a broad range of such engineering, from people designing news senses such as an implant that allows its color-blind receiver to hear colors, to those who are on a quest to extending life expectancy.

“We should not be afraid of becoming something else”, says Moon Ribas, who has developed a sensor which is implanted in her elbow and vibrates whenever there is an earthquake, allowing her to feel global seismic activity in real time. Her portrait by Vintiner is extremely expressive – contortioned on the floor, she seems to prolong Earth’s movements despite the concrete screed that separates them.

© David Vintiner, from the series Futurists

What is true for this portrait applies to all of them. Vintiner isn’t announcing the end of the world nor making the apology of unlimited bio-science. He simply doesn’t judge. « We are just trying to explore and explain the movement to other people”, he confirms. “It took me about a year to get an understanding of what transhumanism is. These people seem really eccentric at first but the more I learned, the less crazy and wacky they seemed. They are just purely thinking about the technology and ignore fuzzy ideas such as what is the soul.”

His approach translates into a neutral aesthetics. In most cases, his portraits are shot in mundane locations - a teenager’s bedroom, an empty garage, an office, a classroom or a living room featuring basic technology such as a TV or a music player. “This is happening now, it's not the future; they're all real people. As much as possible, we photographed them in their homes or in all the places where they do their experiments”, he explains. No cold light either.

© David Vintiner, from the series Futurists

Some devices might remind of super-heroes, but Vintiner doesn’t amplify that aspect. Transhumanists may seem to transcend the barriers of both senses and ethics, but in most cases, they just happen to be thinking in a very pragmatic, scientific way. “I don’t really feel like I have transcended the barriers of traditional sense, I just feel like I am an asshole who is missing an eye and got an eye camera”, one of his subject says.

Yet, a portrait of Nick Bostrom, the Director of the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University, raises a question, if not a warning. The co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association, Bostrom also warns about the dangers of artificial intelligence being unregulated. He further reasoned that the creation of a superintelligent being represents a possible means to the extinction of mankind. “Even though transhumanism is based on science, it has that religious idea of immortality to it, of playing God with biology”, Vintiner concludes. Till where?

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David Vintiner is a British photographer based in London focusing mainly on portraiture. You can support his first book's ‘I Want To Believe’ kickstarter campaign here.

Laurence Cornet is a writer and curator based in Paris focusing on cultural and environmental issues. She is also the editorial director of Dysturb.

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This article is part of our feature series Photo Kernel, which aims to give space to the best contemporary practitioners in our community. The word Kernel means the core, centre, or essence of an object, but it also refers to image processing.

Written by

Laurence Cornet

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