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Artist Makes 3-D Portraits From DNA Found on Gum, Cigarette Butts, and Fingernails

"It all started with wondering what I could learn about someone from a little piece ... they left behind," says artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg. Using discarded items like cigarette butts, chewing gum, and fingernails, she extracted traces of DNA to create masks based on the owner's genetic profile. While difficult to determine how closely these portraits match the original holder, they do put a human face on larger questions surrounding genetic surveillance. Filmmakers Veena Rao and Emily Sheskin present Dewey-Hagborg's "Stranger Visions" series and her counter-surveillance product Invisible, a set of sprays she claims erases the majority of one's DNA footprint.

The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the world and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic's belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. To submit a film for consideration, please email sfs@natgeo.com. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.