Is it real or a model?

Take a look at this photograph of a roman aqueduct (click it to enlarge):

Looks like a model, doesn’t it? What about this pic of the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas?

Gotta be a model, right?

Nope.

It’s often hard to convince people that Olivo Barbieri’s aerial photographs are real. They look uncannily like hyperdetailed models, absent the imperfections of reality. Streets are strangely clean, trees look plastic, and odd distortions of scale create the opposite effect of what we expect from aerial photography—a complete overview, like military surveillance. “I was a little bit tired of the idea of photography allowing you to see everything,” Barbieri says. “After 9/11 the world had become a little bit blurred because things that seemed impossible happened. My desire was to look at the city again.”

The rather surreal model-like effect is achieved using a tilt-shift lens which allows you to control the centerline to be someplace other than the center of the picture making for all sorts of interesting effects such as the ones in the pictures here. This is pretty cool in its own right, but it’s also useful as an example of how we can think we’re seeing something other than what’s actually right in front of us. The Metropolis Magazine article these two images came from is short, but offers several more stunning examples of this nifty trick in action. Check it out.

Link found via Boing Boing.

8 thoughts on “Is it real or a model?

  1. Sigh… this gimmick is a bizarre variation of what Ansel Adams used to call; “Depth through fuzziness”.  Barbieri is using some kind of view camera, which allows tilting the film plane and lensboard relative to each other, and also shifting them perpendicular to the lens axis.

    Normally view cameras are used to do things like make non-converging architectural photos or even all-sharp realistic pictures of city models.  Here the planes of film and lensboard were put at odds to give the impression of, well, a bad snapshot of a city model.  Add overexposure and a higher-contrast printing process like Cibachrome (and no surprise, he does use Cibachrome) and voila!  Making photos like this is trivially easy and every photography student makes a few by accident when learning to use the view camera.

    There are some interesting aspects to the pictures, however.  First, the perception issue triggered by the viewer’s experience with bad model pictures.  The photographer knows about this association and uses it to effect.  Second, (though the aforementioned phenomenon might be interesting only as a one-off) the fact that the photographer apparently has the use of a helicopter and some rather expensive photo processes to play with. Then the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ aspect in which art critics can go on at length about how innovative the whole thing is.

    Barbieri even uses this little trick when making photos of classic paintings, then sells the result as if it were somehow original. 

    Now you might think; “gee, DOF is being pretty grouchy about this” but Barbieri’s photos are sold in galleries that say ‘for price, contact the gallery’. So why am I grouchy?  BECAUSE I NEVER FIGURED OUT HOW TO GET IN ON THE MODERN ART SCAM, THAT’S WHY!

  2. Or it could just be done in Photoshop!

    One of the heavy equipment makers had an ad series for a line of small excavators, dozers, skid steers, and such, that used the same technique to emphasize how small they were. They looked like toys. It’s pretty much just a depth of field thing that’s easily done with a view camera.

    did

  3. Wow and when I take pic’s I just worry about not cutting peoples heads off! I suppose it must take some skill to shoot these pic’s this way, or at least an understanding of what DOF just said anyway hehe.

    On the point of pretentious faux art, whenever this subject comes up I am reminded of Piero Manzoni the artist who sold cans of his own shit.

    he explained that his motivation for tinning his faeces was to expose the gullible nature of the art-buying public.

    The following link is to an article in the telegraph about the Tate buying a can.

    http://snipurl.com/m300

  4. Canned poop?  Here in the US we call that “The state of the union address.”

    For a very entertaining course in pretentious gullibility check out John Sokal and the Social Text affair.  LOL  The guy wrote an essay (that was deliberately complete BS)  for a pretentious literary magazine and they accepted it.  Then he exposed the hoax and boy, did the fur ever fly then!

    Another one is James Randi and the ‘psychic’ he took to Australia, though I suppose that one is less funny to the Aussies.  red face  Well don’t feel bad, mates; we keep James Dobson in skittles.  There’s no monopoly on gullibility.

  5. Anyone come across this ‘illusion’?

    pseudoscope

    I thought this was a good site it cured ne of “seeing is believing”

    optical illusions

    I recieved a copy of Masters of Deception : Escher, Dali & the Artists of Optical Illusion
    For xmas,it seems there are some great artists out there messing with my mind.

  6. One of the heavy equipment makers had an ad series for a line of small excavators, dozers, skid steers, and such, that used the same technique to emphasize how small they were. They looked like toys. It’s pretty much just a depth of field thing that’s easily done with a view camera.

    did

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