“How did he do that?” wasn’t intended to be a series of posts, but I couldn’t help posting this picture. It’s the entire alphabet carved into the tips of 26 pencils. How did he do that, indeed.
I think this would be an interesting question to pose to an ESL class looking at this picture. It would certainly get them talking. Were these letters made by hand? By machine? How long did the alphabet take? How many letters broke while being carved? Which letter was the most difficult to create? And why were such old, chewed up pencils used?
Unlike last time, I actually have some of the answers to these questions. The alphabet was carved by an artist / carpenter from Connecticut named Dalton Ghetti. He carves all of his sculptures by hand, without magnification, using a razor blade and a needle. Pretty amazing stuff.
The patience required for this work is astounding. In an article in the New York Times, he talks about this being the thing that strikes people most about his work.
I’ve always been fascinated by chain links that are carved from a single material. I have made a few minor attempts, but nothing like the pencil seen here. In fact, that might be another interesting question to get students talking. How did he do that?
How did he do that? Is that the first question you asked when you looked at this picture? Look again. Notice all of the people in the picture (and in the picture in the picture) are the same person. Notice, too, that the person in the foreground is holding the picture being taken in the background. To really blow your mind, scroll down to the bottom of this post to see the picture taken by the photographer in the background. Click on either picture to link to larger versions for closer examination.
Impressed? I was. There are lots of examples of photoshopped dopplegangers on flickr, but few are this intricate. With most others, it’s easy to see how how multiple images could be merged into one because the different images don’t interact and sometimes don’t even overlap. When I look at these two pictures, I’m intrigued by how they were made. Which image was taken first? How many images were included? These questions got me to thinking: I bet ESL students would have the same questions. And it would be linguistically challenging to analyze these two photos (possibly by first priming them with something simpler) in the target language.
Next time you want to generate some discussion in your class, consider showing your students these images. (They’re licensed under the Creative Commons, which virtually eliminates any copyright concerns.) The discussion could lead to students planning their own doppleganger photos. Even if they don’t have the photo editing skills or resources to pull it off, planning out the scene and even taking some of the photos required to make their own composite image could be a very interesting exercise.