Desiree Palmen's photos of camouflaged people

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Rotterdam-based artist Desiree Palmen creates incredible photographs of highly camouflaged people. The following is from her artist statement for a 2002 gallery show titled Streetwise:
Concern about the increasing use of identity based electronic information systems and the frequent use of surveillance cameras is one of the impulses for Desiree Palmen to create her work, which uses camouflage, as it's main focus. In photo works, videos and site-specific actions, she explores the possibilities of letting people 'dissolve' into their surroundings or to let them disapaer against the background. The manipulation of clothing plays a crucial role. A shirt covers the body and then extends to cover the tabletop, confusing the contour of the body of the person wearing the shirt with the table itself. In another work, a suit is painted in such a way that when the model is in a very specific position, he/she disappears into the background. Palmen then takes pictures of these situations she creates from the ideal viewing perspective for het audience. In the actual situation, if the viewer moved one step away from this ideal view, then the function of the camouflage seizes to exist.
Link (via The Daily Mail, thanks Lindsay Tiemeyer!)

Previously on BB:
• Billboard made "transparent" Link
• "Transparent" street signs Link
• Transparent screen illusion Link


  1. The photos are cool. However, when you click to enlarge, you get a pop-up that is smaller than the image, can’t be resized and doesn’t have a scroll bar. At least in Firefox. Oops.

  2. ANTINOUS (#1), I assume you’re talking about on her site, not BB? Even still, I’m on Firefox on a Mac and I’m not experiencing that issue.

  3. I’m on a PC, using Firefox, and have no problems on her site.

    I thought I should point out that her last name is “Palmen,” not “Palmer,” and the headline and text should be fixed.

  4. way cool!I like the dummy child, a good way to get the other guy to hold fire for that split second you need to drop him. When we gonna get genetic engineered for flare-able eyespots?

  5. This reminds me of a guy who hangs out on Sunset Blvd on stilts, camouflaged as a tree. It’s pretty amazing – he stands right next to little trees on the sidewalk and you can’t see him at all. Then he bends down ands speaks to passers-by perusing the Walk of Fame and scares the bejeezus out of them. Pretty clever.

    Oh, and the photos are amazing. :)

  6. Very cool- it reminds me of the scene in Be Kind Rewind when Jack Black and Mos Def are camouflaged against the fence. For some reason, my brother and I thought that part was hilarious. Among other parts.

  7. Attempt at less stilted translation:

    “Today’s increasing public use of surveillance and electronic identification systems spurred artist Desiree Palmen to create work focused on the theme of camouflage. In photography, video, and installation pieces, she explores the artistic possibilities of people dissapearing into their surroundings. In those disappearances, clothing plays a crucial role: a suit is painted like its model’s background, viewed from a certain angle; a shirt covers a body and then extends to cover a tabletop, confusing the contour of body and table. Palmen’s photographs of these scenes call attention to how their own perspectives enable the function of camouflage, and to how the function of camouflage depends on perspective.”

  8. saw a radar cop the other day. Fluorescent orange vest totally invisible against the orange, black and yellow lettering of the portable warehouse sale sign he was standing in front of. Cheater.

  9. @ #15:

    Glad I’m not the only one who can enjoy a ridiculous movie with a brother once and a while.

  10. The first time I came across anything like this was Timna Woollard’s work in the move Where The Heart Is

  11. @ #7

    Me too. I loved that bit. I wonder where the idea came from–Palmen, the Sunset Blvd. dude or someplace else (like Gondry’s awesome imagination)?

  12. Sorry, guys.
    Modern AI algorithms are smart enough to figure out that if someone walks on camera, sits still and blends into the background; he’s still there.

    Cool pix, though.

  13. This is a fantastic use of the photographic art form.
    Some of the stuff you see winning the Turner prize could do a lot worse than take a leaf out of Palman’s book

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