Paper People: Hand-Cut Zig-Zag Photorealistic Portraits

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Tiny slivers are sliced away from a single, oversized sheet of white paper in a zig-zag pattern to reveal portraits of public figures, from Audrey Hepburn to Michael Jackson, in this series of photorealistic portraits by Korean artist Yoo Hyun. There’s no ink, graphite or paint involved – just an X-acto knife to cut out the negative space and tweezers to carefully peel those pieces away.

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Take a close look at Hyun’s works and you realize how strikingly simple this process is, working a similar way to pixels. All you’ll see, when examining a small strip of one of these portraits, is a bunch of diagonal white lines. It’s amazing to see how much detail comes through, the portraits somehow revealing nuances in skin and hair texture, when you look at them from farther away.

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The trick is in ever-so-slight variations of the thickness of each diagonal line of paper. Even the smallest cut-out can convey a shadow, while uncut areas make highlights pop. Pulling this off requires incredible precision, as a mistake the width of a human hair can affect the final outcome.

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Check out more of Hyun’s work on his Instagram, @yoo.hyun, or on Facebook.