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It's Hard To Believe These Kaleidoscopic Photos Weren't Made On A Computer

Design duo Lightning and Kinglyface's collaboration with photographer Ryan Hopkins reminds us how easily we fall for optical illusions.

by Johnny Magdaleno
21 May 2014, 6:30pm

Perspicillum (2014) series

Optical illusions fascinate us because they show, in tacit ways, the handicaps of human vision and perception. But in the age of the screen, we’re confronted with so many distortions of reality—thanks to Photoshop, Blender, and phenomena like the hologram Michael Jackson—that it makes you wonder if our visual filters will eventually dull and stop piquing at the sight of the surreal.

(2014) series


In an indirect way, the labors of UK-based design duo Lightning and Kinglyface (aka Anna Fulmine and Victoria Shahrokh) plumb at this wonder by applying digital sleekness to tangible installations. It’s like they’re creating reversed optical illusions, if that makes sense. Their set designs are entirely physical, but they’re conceptualized and framed with such an acute finesse that their reality is instantly processed by the human eye as unreality.

Perspicillum (2014) series

As part of an ongoing series with photographer Ryan Hopkinson, the duo just released a new series of work entitled Perspicillum, which is made up of four photos that look, well, nothing like photos. If anything, they look like still-frames taken from some video game that involves digital kaleidoscopes.

“In partnership with Lightning + Kinglyface this series of images are an invitation to consider what lies beyond the visible reaches of the human eye,” says a project description over at Ryan Hopkinson’s website. “To achieve the effect of looking through abstract telescopic forms onto the sky of distant planets, we focused on capturing the gradients of the sky within a studio setting and used carefully constructed lighting to shoot the in-camera structures.”

“The result of these efforts trick the eye into believing nature exists beyond the view without using extensive post production work.”

Perspicillum (2014) series

So how exactly was it done? What specifically did they use to construct these “in-camera structures”? Impossible to say, since Lightning and Kinglyface choose not to go into detail over at their website. But that’s part of the charm. As long as your wonder is kindled, the duo’s work is working.

To further explore that charm and wonder, we include here the preceding parts of this now-three-part series, which, according to Hopkinson, explores the concept of “artificial nature.” Even though these artists' work reminds us how susceptible our eyes are to simple illusions, it's a reminder so impressive that we're just fine with our vision getting tricked. 

Series for 125 Magazine (2013). Set designs by Lightning and Kinglyface; photography by Ryan Hopkinson.

Tornado (2012). Project designed by Lightning and Kinglyface; photography by Ryan Hopkinson.

All photos courtesy of Lightning and Kinglyface and Ryan Hopkinson


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optical illusion
digital vs analog
lightning and kinglyface
ryan hopkins