Unnerving 900-Megapixel Portraits Seem to Stare Back

March 18, 2014 at 4:15 AM ET

Photography of the "gigapixel" order really hit the mainstream with the massive picture of President Obama's 2009 inauguration, in which individual faces were visible from a quarter mile away. But what if all those pixels were dedicated to just one face? The results, these 900-megapixel portraits, are compelling — and a little creepy.

The portraits were done by Swiss photographer Daniel Boschung, and are in fact composed of 600 different images taken over half an hour and composited together. Every portion of the face is carefully photographed at close range by a robot arm holding a Canon DSLR with a macro lens.

Daniel Boschung / YouTube
A close-up of one subject's eye — and you can zoom much more than this.

By stitching together hundreds of photos taken at close range, with carefully controlled lighting and focus, an astonishingly detailed picture is created. You can try zooming into one of the photos here; that one actually hits the gigapixel mark, but the others Boschung has done fall just below that level.

The series is called "Face Cartography," and for good reason: When you're close enough that you can pick out each individual pore or the shape of the tip of a hair, a face looks more like a massive landscape to explore than a picture of a person.

Wonder why everyone looks so dour? Smiling for 30 minutes straight is hard, as any pageant contestant can tell you. If the subjects are to have the same expression for half an hour, it has to be one they can maintain — something neutral, which for many amounts to something like a frown. It may not be flattering, but at these zoom levels every human on Earth has flaws anyway.

More portraits can be seen at Boschung's webpage, although high traffic led to occasional errors Monday in accessing the photos.