Ulric Collette’s Genetic Portraits Bridge the Generation Gap
In his series of “Genetic Portraits”, Quebecois photographer Ulric Collette demonstrates the embedded interconnectedness within family trees, seen throughout a period of time. His seamless side-by-side portrayals emphasize the nuances in each family member’s physical traits. At first glance, the uncanny resemblance throughout the series is striking, but then the shifts in age and relationship also highlight their various differences, the way features seem to cross generations and yet, somehow all meet in the middle. Ulric’s photoset shows the contrast between people of different age groups. Yet somehow genetics decided that some facial features are worth keeping in the next generation. These pictures will make you want to make a photo diary to track how different your features are when you age. Or, it’ll just inspire you to appreciate the beauty in your loved ones.
Son/Father: Nathan, 7 & Ulric, 29
While the project explores more than just shared characteristics between family members within different generations, it might have all began with an often heard saying, “Like father, like son.” Here, we can see the traits that have been passed on another generation.
In the very first image of the series, Ulric Collette turns the camera on himself, as he captures the intimate likeness between him and his own son. As he branched out to other family members, he continued to find that the apple certainly doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Brothers: Christophe, 30 & Ulric, 29
Training his lens on immediate family first, Ulric enlisted the help of the ones closest to him, at least in terms of age: his brothers. Because what better way to start an art project that you so dearly love by asking your family members to participate?
Aside from a suspiciously uneven haircut, we can hardly tell that we are looking at two individual faces. Upon closer inspection, details jump out, such as the different eye colors and misaligned nostrils. Even so, Ulric and his older brother Christophe could easily be mistaken for twins.
Brothers: Mathieu, 25 & Ulric, 29
In the next photo, Ulric compares himself to his younger brother, Mathieu. It’s amazing how you can see the differences in age, such as the thinning of the hair, the ruggedness in age. Everything is highlighted through images and this stark contrast shows the difference between the two.
This time, the contrast is more evident, perhaps because of the wider age gap between them. We’re also curious if Ulric was influenced at all by his experience of growing up as a middle child — situated at the center of his own family unit.
Father/Son: Denis, 60 & Mathieu, 25
Here, the paternal chain comes full circle with their father shown together with his youngest son. The visual style looks almost like a FaceApp filter was applied to half Mathieu’s face to make him look more aged, along with the graying hair and beard. In this way, the similarities seem even more pronounced.
It’s no surprise that genetic traits seem to blend naturally between father and son, but seeing details that surface like eye color also reminds us about how those traits are passed down from a set of parents with their own distinct features.
Cousins: Justine, 29 & Ulric, 29
Here, Ulric crosses the gender gap, putting his own portrait side by side with his female cousin, who also happens to be the same age. On the streets, they could easily be mistaken for siblings. We love the fading of the black hair into whiteness
Holiday dinners are not all that families share, as illustrated by this image. It’s not uncommon for relatives to look alike, and the striking resemblance here seems to be one the photographer wanted to point out. At the same time, he shows certain features that we identify as gender markers —eyebrows, face shape, lips — can also be somewhat arbitrary.
Cousins: Ulric, 34 & Justine, 34
When Ulric went to revisit his own project five years later, the effects of age became more markedly apparent through his photography. Maturity gathers in the eyes and complexion. Hair appears physically thinner, whereas other features have sharpened over time.
Other subjects in the series were also documented through time, drawing out plenty of interesting comparisons that crossed over more than just lines of age and gender. Although he never specifically set out to do so, Ulric’s portraits capture the different cultures, backgrounds, and personalities that make up a family. Do you notice the subtle difference in eye color?
Sisters: Justine, 34 & Emilie, 36
Seen together like this, Ulric’s cousin Justine and her sister Emilie are like two sides of the same coin. Obvious outside features such as their hair and eyes are completely the opposite, but there is no denying they are related.
They could almost pass as twins if it weren’t for the different hair colors and the mole on the woman’s right cheek. They seem to have an identically beautiful smile. No wonder some siblings often get mistaken for twins, in spite of any clearly distinct characteristics.
Twins: Laurence, 20 & Christine, 20
The photographer explored the idea of using twins from the very beginning. What better way to show family genetics than with people born at the same time? It’s known that having twins in itself is an inherited genetic trait that runs in some families.
In a way, it is passed on from generation to generation and across different bloodlines. Whether they’re fraternal or identical doesn’t seem to strongly influence their looks. There are identical twins that are immediately distinct from each other and fraternal twins that could easily pull a Parent Trap.
Twins: Christine, 25 & Laurence, 25
When it comes to twin sisters Christine and Laurence, what most clearly separates them from each other is highlighted in their different styles and personalities. There is a cheeky trick that twins seem to naturally pull off. In the previous picture, Christine is on the right with chopped hair and no makeup.
Above, the two hairstyles and characters seem to have switched sides. Laurence has kept her bangs but has gone with shorter hair while Christine has taken on her sister’s long locks and earring from five years prior. And that’s quite the snarl!
Twins: Annie-Claude, 29 & Marie-Eve, 29
Again, while Annie-Claude and Marie-Eve’s facial features look so alike, their very different hairstyles distinguish them from each other. Even without knowing them personally, people can often tell just from seeing them that twins develop very individual identities, expressed in their distinct styles.
Interestingly enough, according to a psychological study conducted among children who were born blind as well as siblings who had been separated at birth, facial expressions were similarly inherited from parents, even with the absence of sight or physical presence.
Twins: Alex, 20 & Sandrine, 20
Opposite gender is one telltale sign that twins are fraternal and not identical, meaning they developed from separate zygotes. Alex and Sandrine must be tired by now of hearing that they are like male and female versions of each other.
Alex’s deep-set eyes, wide forehead, and nose bridge are small yet noticeable contrasts to Sandrine’s more typically slender features. Ironically though, this image once again blurs the lines between what can be considered masculine or feminine, with Sandrine’s more squared jawline and thin lips.
Brothers: Renaud, 17 & Kristof, 19
Sometimes, even the mathematical fact of age itself can seem like an illusion that’s not so easily distinguished. With his thicker facial hair and longer braids, who’s to say Renaud is not the one who is two years older than Kristof?
Appearance and identity may be correlated, but not by much. The most minute of details can change a person’s appearance entirely but changes nothing about who they are. One of their most common similarities is their hair texture and skin color, yet it’s beautiful to see the differences in their facial features.
Son/Mother: Kristof, 19 & Madined, 41
With this genetic portrait here, it becomes clear that Kristof seems to have inherited more of his mother’s features. Mother and son share an almost identical face shape and striking features. It leaves us curious as to what, if at all, he’s inherited from his father.
The characteristic hair is another amusing similarity passed down from mother to son and shows how children truly take after the strength shown by their mothers. Who do you think is the mother here and the son? It looks like age unravels gracefully in this family’s DNA.
Mother/Daughter: Julie, 61 & Isabelle, 32
Have you ever come across that friend who looks exactly like both their parents, even though their parents look so different from each other? Well, here’s Isabelle, who after seeing this genetic portrait must surely have felt that she was glimpsing her own future.
This portrait serves as an example of how some genetic markers, such as hair color, are more dominant and tend to block other more recessive traits. Although Isabelle did not inherit her mother’s blondness, there’s no denying those prominent curls.
Father/Daughter: Daniel, 60 & Isabelle, 32
This time around, Isabelle is matched with her father, and now we can tell where in the family she got her dark hair from. Darker eyes are also strongly inherited, as traits that carry more melanin are also more dominant.
Still, Daniel seems to have given his daughter a signature smirk along with a set of expressive eyebrows. Their strong facial features must make them stand out. Also, it looks like healthy hair runs in their family! We wish we had some of their DNA too.
Father/Daughter: Ham, 64 & Sophea, 37
Although Sophea is nearly half her father’s age, their features bear a clear resemblance. The contrasts between male and female, father and daughter are apparent in their completely opposite features that mark their sex. But one thing is for sure.
Beyond being different sexes, they have the same facial features. Fine lines and tighter skin indicate the passage of time that becomes visible on a person’s face. But next to his daughter, it’s not hard to imagine how Ham would have looked when he was her age.
Daughter/Mother: Sophea, 37 & Sophal, 62
It becomes immediately apparent that Sophea has inherited traits from both her parents in equal measure. Next to her mother Sophal, we can already tell how Sophea’s eyes and a smile might look in a few years time, albeit with some deeper creases.
And who wouldn’t envy the genetics at work? Neither subject betrays their actual age, each preserving their youthful spirit. This family duo also ages gracefully. If this is how the mother looks like, we’re rearing to see how the father and grandparents look.
Daughter/Father: Ismaelle, 10 & Ulric, 32
Coming back to photograph his own family again, Ulric this time focuses on his elder daughter Ismaelle. The features are similar but not as developed as his comparisons with his other family members. This photo emphasizes the contrast between child and adult.
Although children’s eyes are often fully developed at a young age and won’t noticeably change in shape or size, they are nonetheless one of the features, along with ears, noses, and lips that grow differently as we age, slightly stretching along with the skin.
Sister/Brother: Ismaelle, 12 & Nathan, 11
In this picture, Nathan — one of the series’ original subjects — returns for a side-by-side with his sister. Seen here with her younger brother Nathan, Ismaelle’s freckles are highlighted, which isn’t a trait they share with their father. Their smiles, however, are an enduring and endearing similarity.
Again, with such a minor difference in age, the siblings could just as well be twins. We love the subtle changes in their looks, especially with the sister having the thinner arched brow. It’s little changes like this that make all the difference in looks.
Grandmother/Granddaughter: Ginete, 61 & Ismaelle, 12
These two women are so similar, it’s surprising that they’re not mother and daughter. But then again, another characteristic of genetic traits is their tendency to skip a generation, as illustrated when Ismaelle is shown here with her grandmother Ginete.
It’s almost as if she was put through a time machine, or that these are just before and after pictures of one person taken at different points in her life. When we look back at our ancestry, there are always kindred relatives that seem to share “the same DNA”, often taking on same patterns and behaviors, not just looks.
Mother/Son: Ginete, 61 & Mathieu, 30
Ulric’s younger brother Mathieu makes a reappearance here, five years later. You can see the amount of effort put into this project to show the differences in age and facial features, as well as hair, whether it be the lack of it or an abundance.
Beyond a doubt, their mother’s cheerful expression shines even through the scruffy lumberjack beard and short cropped hair sported by Mathieu. It’s also apparent how Ginete has passed down her beautiful brown eyes to her children, save for Ulric himself, who inherited his father’s piercing blue eyes.
Brothers: Loyd, 30 & Jean-Philippe, 27
No doubt, younger siblings tend to look up to and emulate their older counterparts, during but not limited to their formative years in particular. That’s not to say the converse isn’t also true. Brothers Loyd and Jean-Philippe evidently have a very similar style.
From their beards to their clothes and jewelry, it’s safe to assume these two have a close relationship. It’s also interesting to note how hair can obscure or accentuate a person’s age. A thinning hairline is an obvious sign of age, but Jean-Philippe seems to subvert that with his shaved do.
Brothers: Dany, 31 & Eric, 39
In another similar fun comparison, brothers Dany and Eric share an energetic expression in their portrait. To drive the previous point home, here the age difference is more apparent due to Dany’s curls in contrast to his brother’s more bare head.
This is a perfect example of why hair plays a big role in physical family features. These brothers look almost identical and the only difference we’re actually seeing is the top part of their face and the lower part. What differences do you notice?
Sister/Brother: Genevieve, 33 & Jean-Michel, 30
Evidence of high melanin content, brown or dark hair is the most common type of hair coloration found in populations around the world. It serves a function, as the melanin provides more overall protection against skin and eye problems as well.
It’s not easy to tell with people like Genevieve and Jean-Michel, but most people would be surprised to learn that brunettes actually have fewer hairs on their heads than blondes or red-heads. Now there’s a fun fact you can tell at parties.
Sister/Brother: Pascale, 45 & David, 36
When shown in this side-by-side style, the distinctions between people’s faces and features become almost negligible. It’s beautiful to see males and females merged with each other to create one human. This picture even shows how it could be one person!
If the people in these photos were to completely shave off all their hair, we imagine it would be a lot more challenging to determine their age or even gender. It’s amazing how even the finest details still result in completely unique faces.
Sister/Brother: Karine, 29 & Dany, 25
Siblings Karine and Dany are another duo with just a few inches of hair to distinguish between them. Are they brother and sister or are they fraternal twins? We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw this image, because the similarities are wondrous.
You wouldn’t be remiss to think that we are very influenced by our siblings, not just in personality and behavior, but right down to our very genetic makeup. It’s easy to imagine the kind of jovial relationship these two must have, since they ended up looking so alike.
Brother/Sister: Jean-Philippe, 29 & Veronique, 27
The first thing that we notice in this side-by-side of siblings is how we are drawn to their eyes. The difference in eye color between siblings can be explained by the wide variety of genetic factors that play a role in expressing these characteristics.
Because there are dominant and recessive traits, the chances of inheriting specific traits are never 50-50, a testament to the complex workings of DNA within in our bodies. There are even plenty of traits that jump from different generations within a family.
Sisters: Anne-Sophie, 19 & Pascale, 16
It’s hard to believe that all of these photos portray two different people. This particular image caught our eyes because we could swear that this was just one person. But these are two sisters not to mention, they’re of different ages.
In some cases, such as this one with sisters Anne-Sophie and Pascale, it’s as if the photographer simply took one picture and slightly edited half of it with Facetune. The symmetry in these girls’ features could easily fool someone who isn’t taking a closer look.
Sisters: Roxane, 22 & Jill, 25
Meanwhile, in other images, the differences between siblings can be highlighted and isolated, showing how pronounced they are and bringing their differences to the forefront. This stark contrast of sisters shows the many ways genetics can conjure up varied features.
None of Roxane’s features directly match with her sister Jill — from hairstyle to eye size, nose shape, and lips. It’s refreshing to see the photographer truly capture the wide variety of genetic changes that occur from one offspring to the other.
Sisters: Gabrielle, 28 & Lea, 25
What jumps out for us in this picture is another fault in perception. For some reason, Lea’s sleeker, more defined hair conveys a sense of maturity as opposed to her sister Gabrielle’s tousled locks. Lo and behold, it’s Gabrielle who is the elder of the two.
We’ve learned to understand that regardless of age and gender, looks are always going to depend on the unique fabric makeup of each individual. Each parent carries different genes and the combination of both parents can be shocking and completely unexpected.
Sisters: Veronique, 32 & Catherine, 36
With a cheerful grin, these sisters just exude charisma and charm. It’s amazing to see how a smile greatly influences the rest of your facial features. When these two sisters smile, it looks almost as if they could be twins.
The way their eyes crinkle and the way their smiles stretch evidently show how they’re related. Here, Veronique and Catherine’s buoyant expression also shows the similar fine lines that have collected around their eyes and nose, almost like the leftover fragments from a lifetime of laughter.
Son/Mother: Ludwig, 33 & Laurence, 59
Ma’am, we hate to break it to you, but it seems you didn’t finish shaving! Naturally, we’re prone to believe that children have more in common with the parent they share more DNA with — that is, daughters take after mothers and sons after fathers.
But as Ludwig and his mother Laurence show, that’s not always the case. On the other hand, this picture seems to reinforce the highly relatable archetype of “mama’s boy”. This difference is stark, but at the same time, we can see where the line meets.
Daughter/Father: Ariane, 13 & Andre, 55
Even with the widest age difference between two generations in this series, it’s plain to see that Ariane and Andre’s family resemblance is not far off at all. Despite the major age gap, their skin color and even hair are unwavering in appearance.
When it comes to genetics, we’re still very far from having an exact science to explain patterns of heredity. There’s no telling whether children will take after one parent more than the other, and as is clear in this portrait, traits aren’t inherited strictly within gender boundaries.
Father/Son: Laval, 56 & Vincent, 29
Not to sound rude, but in this image, it’s as if Vincent simply had someone punch his right eye in; otherwise, it’s a normal picture. Besides his father Laval’s prominent nose bridge, the two are almost identical. Even their facial hair seems to match up.
It harks back to one of the first ideas the series explored, “Like father, like son.” The saying holds true no matter how much time has passed. These father and son comparisons truly tell a story not just through their features but because it looks like their eyes hold a story.
Father/Son: Denis, 53 & William, 28
Between Denis and William, age appears to be a lot more distinct. While the two share a cropped style, Denis’s hair has grayed through time. The folds and wrinkles etched into his skin have also become a lot more noticeable.
But somehow, when seen next to his son William, there’s a youthful glow that is enhanced. His expression is not one of weariness, but of pride. Who can blame him when he’s clearly brought up a son that’s his spitting image.
Father/Son: Claude, 54 & Benoit, 23
Since the dawn of time, people have always been obsessed with the concept of eternal life and the possible ways to obtain it. Prevalent cross-cultural myths of the fountain of youth speak to our human desire to preserve our prime years.
But maybe we’ve already found the fountain of youth. Although they are different individuals altogether, Claude’s energy continues to course through his son Benoit. There’s no secret here. After all, families are all about building, preserving, and carrying on our forefathers’ legacies.
Daughter/Mother: Maxim, 16 & Mireille, 37
Maxim is about halfway into her teenage years. Meanwhile, her mother Mireille almost looks like she has just barely finished going through hers, despite their 21-year age gap. Puberty is a time for rapid growth, when the body goes through myriad hormonal and physiological developments.
These can include gaining height or losing excess baby fat. But in the succeeding years, we experience very minimal physical changes. The above image perfectly captures that natural process, but remarkably, we’re having trouble figuring out which side is which.
Daughter/Mother: Marie-Pier, 18 & N’sira, 49
With over three decades between them, N’sira must feel very lucky to have Marie-Pier alongside her, seeing the world anew from a fresh perspective. Although there can be overtly conflicting ideas and opinions among different generations, there is never a lack of common ground.
We can all learn a lot from one another, and bonds can often grow deeper and richer over the years. Wisdom comes not just from age but from human experience, which is something we all share in our individual ways.
Daughter/Mother: Marilene, 35 & Rejeane, 64
This is a beautiful example of how people can age gracefully, and how we always somehow end up turning into our mothers and fathers. It’s rather like seeing the same woman, with just a few more delicate markers of age.
If you’ve ever browsed through your parents’ old photo albums, then you probably already know that feeling of recognizing yourself in someone else’s memory. After all, we are just like younger versions of our parents, born in an era after theirs.
Daughter/Mother: Judith, 25 & Suzanne, 51
While Judith is more than half her mother’s age, this image almost makes them out to be sisters. Can you tell which one is the mom here? At first glance, we couldn’t. They both look gorgeous and youthful, regardless of their actual age.
Judith’s nose ring makes us wonder about all the other less superficial traits she got from her mother Suzanne, apart from the obvious facial likeness. Along with physical characteristics, we also inherit a lot of our personality from our parents.