The painting that tricks the eye

The most enduring images break their immediate frames of reference and climb into our imaginations. Such is the power of a photograph captured this week of a soldier in the Free Syrian Army standing guard as the first major ceasefire in five years came into effect.




The picture relies for its intensity on an illusion of three-dimensionality that makes us believe that the patrolling figure is on the verge of stepping through the lens of the camera into our very minds. The subtle sleight of eye is comparable to an optical trick played in the 19th Century by a Catalan illustrator, whose subject – like the rebel soldier in this week’s image – seems forever poised on a threshold between this world and another.


Among the challenges every photojournalist faces is how to bridge the geographic and cultural divides that separate his or her subject from an audience half a world away – an audience over whom a tidal wave of competing visual messages crashes every day.


The perspective adopted by Ammar El Bushy, the photographer who took this photo of the anti-Assad guard, takes advantage of a perfectly positioned notch in the entrance-way of the tunnel through which the crouching figure is seen advancing towards the camera.

在这张照片里,一名反阿萨德武装人员正在一步一步接近相机的位置。而作为摄影师的阿玛尔·艾玛·布希(Ammar El Bushy)则采用了独特的视角,充分利用了地道入口处的一个缺口来呈现跳出框架的效果。

That notch in the rubbled wall of a bombed-out structure is curved around the shape of the soldier’s head, creating the unsettling illusion that the armed rebel is at once behind and in front of the aperture to the tunnel. The result is a photo that breaks down the barrier between the stresses of a conflict raging in an inconceivable elsewhere and the retinas of distant readers.


2015年5月23日,作为欧洲迪士尼活动的一部分,德国街头画家埃德加·穆勒(Edgar Mueller)在巴黎市政厅前绘制错觉画。

The photograph’s ability to overcome visual boundaries places it in a tradition of aesthetic trickery that dates back to ancient Greece and a technique now known by the French phrase trompe-l'œil (or ‘deceive the eye’). El Bushy’s image recalls, in particular, the optical dexterity of a work by a pioneering 19th-Century Realist painter from the Catalan town of Puigcerdà.


Pere Borrell del Caso’s most famous work, Escaping Criticism (1874), depicts a boy in mid-clamber, as if burgling his way through the painting’s frame – his eyes wide in wonder with his first glimpse of the real world. Seen in the context of this week’s war-weary photograph, Borrell’s enchanting canvas interjects a note of hopeless hope, that the ceasefire into which the rebel tentatively steps is more than a cruel illusion.

这位画家名叫皮埃尔·伯瑞尔·德·卡索(Pere Borrell del Caso),他最著名的作品是《逃脱批评》(Escaping Criticism),创作于1874年。这幅画描绘了一个正在攀爬的男孩儿,从画作效果来看,他似乎即将从画框里爬出来一样——他第一次见到真实的世界,所以好奇地睁大了双眼,仔细打量着周遭的一切。伯瑞尔的画作让人产生了绝望中的希望,而从本周这张反战主题的照片来看,反对派尝试性地达成的这次停火协议,似乎也不仅仅是一种残酷的错觉。