I’ve written about these photos before, but I recently had a chance to put them in front of some students and I learned a couple of things. First, and most obvious, these photos are very well done. There is a depth to the paradox of the two photos that is really engaging.
I started by asking students what they saw. The first answers were mostly along the lines of, “a guy playing basketball.” When asked about the “guys,” students began to notice these “guys” were all the same guy. Interesting.
When I asked how the picture was made, many students said, “Photoshop.” But, when I asked what picture was taken first, several students offered various theories. Most agreed that the same head was not cut and pasted to different bodies, but that several pictures of the same person were laid one over another. When I pointed out that some of the figures cast shadows on some of the others, they had to rethink their theories a bit more. I told them I did not know how this was done — I still don’t — but we enjoyed talking through what steps would need to be taken to create this photo.
During the class discussion, I found it really useful to view the largest sized photos available (original size top and bottom). I held the control button and clicked the photos (right-click in Windows) and chose View Image to view only the photos in my browser. In my browser, I went to the View menu and clicked Toolbars and unchecked as many as possible so that my window was as big as possible to view the picture. Because the original photo was so large, I could also click on the photo to zoom in. (Your browser may be configured differently, but you should be able to set it up in a similar way.) By clicking the control and tab keys together (alt-tab in Windows) I could toggle back and forth between these two images. That combined with zooming allowed me to simulate zooming through layer after layer of this paradox.
If I had had more time, it would have been interesting to try to create some photos like these of our own. If we had a couple of cameras and tripods, we could got out and snap some pictures and see what challenges they presented while slicing them together.
One student noticed that the top photo has a break between the figures in the right and left halves. A simpler grouping, like that in either half, would not be too hard to put together. (In fact, some cameras and at least on iPhone app allow you to stitch together pictures as you take them, allowing you to insert the same person in each of the frames that are stitched together into the final photograph.)
It would be interesting to see what students came up with, what challenges they met along the way, and how they were able to resolve them.