A Great Body of Work

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The Human Chameleon – Body paint Artist Johannes Stoetter

A new exhibit in the Magic Gallery features images created by visual wiz Johannes Stoetter. The world renowned body painter tricks the mind by creating body paintings that transform his living models into objects inspired by nature including animals, fruits, flowers and more. According to the World Body Painting Championship 2012, body-painting to him is a way of “creating a unity between an image and a person”, and is made especially unique by the fact that the artwork is alive and able to move. Each of Stoetter’s art pieces are painstakingly planned and take up to 5 months to design and up to 8 hours to paint. Unlike canvas paintings however, these body-painting’s only exist for a few hours. Steal a peek behind the scenes of Stoetter creating his famous paintings The Chameleon and The Parrot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yHkAac-KG0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMwvsePCvPM


written by Maria Grenman








The Mystery of the Ames Room at Camera Obscura

Did you know that you can shrink and grow at ease in our Ames Room? Here’s how!….

The first Ames Room was built in 1935 by American ophthalmologist Adelbert Ames, Jr. However, it is thought the concept of the Ames Room was inspired from the German physician Hermann Helmholtz in the 1800’s.

Here comes the spoiler alert…..the Ames Room isn’t actually cubic in shape, it’s trapezoidal! The walls and ceiling are sloped and the floors are built on an incline which creates a forced perspective. This, when viewed at the right angle, tricks your brain into thinking one person is considerably taller than the other.


The Ames Room – picture by Tony Marsh

It has proved so effective that it has been used to create special effects in many Hollywood movies. Ever wondered how they made the Hobbits look so small next to Gandalf? Yup, that’s right, all done using the same technique! (Sorry to spoil the Shire magic for you all!)

Want to share your photos of the Ames Room? We would love to see all the creative posing we know our visitors do!

Ancient Illusions and Camera Obscura

Think optical illusions are new?  Think again!

Holbein - The Ambassadors

The Ambassadors – Holbein

At Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, we have many exhibits that are very old.  Some of our 3D images date back to the late 19th century, while the Camera Obscura itself is a whopping 160 years old.  But optical illusions are even older than that.


The Hidden Skull


A painting, The Ambassadors,  by the famous Renaissance artist Hans Holbein contains a hidden skull.  Can you see it?It is the weird shape at the bottom.  It only looks like a skull when you look at the painting from the right.


It is really spooky.  Holbein put it there to remind everyone that death awaits us all, which is even spookier. But optical illusions were not always so creepy, especially ancient ones.  The Greeks and Romans were fans of optical illusions. Take the Parthenon in Athens…..


The Parthenon


The Parthenon – exaggerated

Built over 2,500 years ago in Athens, it may not look like an obvious example of an ancient optical illusion, but it is.  The whole building is a giant illusion.  There are no straight lines in its entire construction.  It is hard to see, which is the point.  It is so big that all the sides and columns need to be curved to appear straight.

This is an exaggerated version of what it actually looks like. The Parthenon is an expensive optical illusion, but they were also used to make cheap things look expensive.  In ancient Rome, marble was fashionable for decoration, but it was very expensive.  Therefore, many people had their walls painted to look like marble.

House of Griffins

House Of Griffins 

This is the House of the Griffins underneath the Palatine hill in Rome.  It is a late Republican House that was buried when the Emperor Domitian built his palace in the late first century.  The owner wanted the walls to look like they had expensive marble panels, so these were painted on.

The ancient world loved optical illusions.  Pliny the Elder (writing in the first century AD and killed in the eruption that destroyed Pompeii) tells a story of a Greek painter, Zeuxis, in the 5th century BC, who was in a painting competition and won by painting grapes so lifelike that they fooled the birds into trying to eat them.  His competitor, Parrhasius, did even better, for when Zeuxis asked him to draw back the curtain and show his painting, Parrhasius revealed that the curtain WAS the painting.  Zeuxis responded that while he had fooled the birds, Parrhasius had fooled him (The story is in Pliny’s Natural History 35:36).


It seems that throughout history, everyone has loved a good illusion.  So come for a visit today to join in the hands-on illusionary fun that’s packed into the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions building!


Written by Jen Cresswell

Picture credits:

Holbein The Ambassadors: Wikipedia

The Ambassadors detail: Wikipedia

The Parthenon: Wikipedia.

The Parthenon exaggerated: http://people.duke.edu/~wj25/UC_Web_Site/hum98/Acropolis-plans.asp

The House of the Griffins: Jen Cresswell

There’s something spooky going on at Camera Obscura…

This Halloween, Camera Obscura & World of Illusions will be transformed into a haunted house full of ghosts, ghouls and goblins.

You may may find some spooky characters going around the building and they may even offer you a special show inside the Camera Obscura and tell chilling ghost stories to make your blood run cold. Also, during the 27th October – 4th November any child who comes along to visit and is dressed up will receive 20% off admission price.

There will also be a “Thaumatrope making workshop” in the building so kids can make their own Halloween themes thaumatrope! If you don’t know what a thaumatrope is then we have added a small video to show you how they work…

We’ll take some photos to share with you and if you do visit remember to share your own photos if you find anything (or anyone!) spooky or scary.

New Exhibit: The Light Painter

We have just added an exciting new exhibit here at Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. It is called ‘Light Painter’ and it enables you to create your own abstract works of art, using only light.

It is very simple: simply shine any light source at the screen and the light magically appears there. We supply three coloured torches to draw with; blue, green and pink, and a ‘space gun’ that combines colours (with a wacky space gun noise effect!).  The tighter the light source the smaller the ‘brush’.

Anything that emits light will work,  for example, if you own a phone that has a torch built in (or simply a flash for the camera), and point it at your face,  then you will see yourself appear on screen.  You can make multiple images of yourself, or scribble on your own face if you wish!  To start over and do a new painting, press the button provided.  Like many of our exhibits, Light Painter encourages you to play, experiment and use your imagination to create something truly unique.

Here are our first light paintings…

Rather sinister looking don’t you think?

We also gave ourselves four arms!

Of course we know you can do better, so please do share your photos on Facebook, Flickr and Twitter!

Caution: Our new exhibit may bite!

There’s a scary new addition to the fun exhibits here at Camera Obscura and World of Illusions.  You’ll find him on the third floor of our exhibitions and if you’re brave enough, then try sticking your hand in the feeding hole and give him a stroke. Fear not, he’s all roar and no bite!

Don’t worry, we’re not being cruel to our new resident, as long as we keep feeding him plenty of shortbread he’s happy.  We let him out at night to enjoy the exhibitions for himself!

We don’t have a name for this new member of the team yet so if you can think of any imaginative names, then why don’t you share it with us on Facebook and Twitter!

We need a name for our new member of the team. share us your imaginative name if you can think of one!

Our New Exhibit – Rubins Vase

To mark the celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we have managed to get hold of a very rare item to help celebrate.

Our new exhibit is a Rubins Vase which was built in 1977 to celebrate the Queens Silver Jubilee. the vase contains the hidden silhouette of the profiles of the Queen and of Prince Philip!

We are thrilled to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with this highly unusual exhibit. This Rubins Vase is extremely rare and is one of the best examples of its kind. Most Rubins vases have only one hidden face, whereas this vase has two. We think it’s the perfect way to mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and give our visitors a chance to see The Queen and Price Philip in a whole new light.

I’m sure you have seen this illusion before (but not quite like this) and the illusion was invented by a Danish psychologist by the name of Edgar Rubin in 1915.

Why don’t you come along to Camera Obscura during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and have a look for yourself!

Rubins Vase

The Rubins Vase. Built to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Now here at Camera Obscura to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee!

Optical Illusion – Chess shade Illusion

I’m sure some of you have seen this famous illusion before:

If you haven’t seen it before then believe it or not, both tiles A and B are exactly the same shade!

What? Don’t believe me? Then this video should prove it to you…

12 Amazing Things In Less Than A Minute

Never been to Camera Obscura & World of Illusions before? Not exactly sure on what we have to offer? Have you always thought “I know about the place and meaning to go but I haven’t gotten round to it yet”? Well this video should give you a quick idea of what we have to offer for you. We did this for the Science Festival last year and features Richard Wiseman and one of our guides playing around with all the exhibits we have!

Our New Blog Site!

Hello everyone!


Welcome to our shiny new blog page where we will be posting any interesting news about Camera Obscura!


To be honest we are fairly new to this whole “blogging” thing but give us time and I’m sure we’ll make this as interesting as we can for all of you to read.


Basically any news about Camera Obscura (i.e. events, new exhibits etc) we’ll post on here, along with any other news we find interesting. Don’t be afraid to give us some inspiration and give us stories of your own, we’d love to hear from you all!


In the meantime, here’s a nice picture from one of our favourite graphic artists, M.C. Escher (naturally)…

Day and Night - MC Escher

Hope to hear from you soon!