A Time-Lapse of Photographer Liu Bolin Disappearing into TED 2013

Chinese photographer and artist Liu Bolin was invited to speak at the TED 2013 conference last week, and talked about his widely published photos that show himself blended into various backgrounds thanks to paint that’s carefully applied to his body. At the end of this talk (which hasn’t been published online yet), he showed a photograph of himself blended into the background of the conference stage. The time-lapse above shows the process that went into making the image.

Here’s the final photograph that resulted:


To create this shot, Liu stood on the stage with his outfit pre-painted, and then had the rest of the detail filled in by a painter who received instructions from an assistant standing behind the camera. The painter carefully applied small details of various colors until Liu disappeared into the scene.

For his simpler shots, Liu may stand for 3 or 4 hours during the painting process. More complicated ones can take 3 to 4 days. Everything you see in his images are the result of carefully applied paint — no Photoshop trickery is ever used.

We first featured Liu’s work back in March 2012. You can see more of it through the Eli Klein Fine Art Gallery in NYC.

(via TED via Laughing Squid)

Image credits: Video and photos by TED/Liu Bolin/Eli Klein Fine Art

  • Sylvia Krzysztofek

    The first time I saw Liu Bolin’s work up close was back in Chicago at the Schneider Gallery in 2009, and was blown away. This piece is amazing!

  • Jeffrey Friedl

    I understand that he might be the “creative director”, and that it perhaps takes mental/physical skill to stand still as he does, but I don’t see how it’s /his/ art… he’s the canvas for other (apparently unnamed) artists. It’s certainly a fun idea executed well, though.

  • Nathan Caulford

    Same with Dale Chihuly. He used to do his own stuff, now he directs a team. This raises an interesting question. Is the art in the conception/direction, or in the execution, or both?

  • Nathan Caulford

    One of the missions of art is to create an opportunity and invite the viewer to look more deeply, to see something more than the obvious (perhaps ultimately introspectively). This definitely does that, literally, where much art does it figuratively.

  • wickerprints

    Well, it might be said that a photographer who captures a candid moment was not solely responsible for the execution of that moment, no? You may say the photographer chose the moment, the exposure settings, and composition, but are those choices really that conceptually different from Mr. Liu’s “creative direction?”

    My point is that the photographer doesn’t need to be responsible for the creation of the moment itself in order to be regarded as the artist conveying the vision of the moment he or she captures. Why, then, does Mr. Liu need to paint himself to be considered the artist in this case?

    Furthermore, do we say that Canon or Nikon or Leica or Sony made the photograph what it is because it is their camera and lens design that recorded the image itself? Or do we say that it is the photographer’s aesthetic vision that made the photograph what it is? What is the nature of that vision if it is fundamentally different than the nature of Liu’s vision of his work?

    I don’t expect you to revise your position on whether Liu Bolin ought to claim to be the artist here. However, I do encourage you to ask yourself the above questions and to look at how they might be answered in an honest and nonjudgmental fashion.

  • Jeffrey Friedl

    Thanks for your well-thought reply…. you ask good questions (some of which I did indeed ask myself). I think in this case, the body upon which the paint is placed is essentially a commodity… most anyone could perform that task. The main artistic skill in pulling off the result is in the actual application of paint… in choosing where to place what color, and in actually placing the color. The paint placement coordinates with the placement of the camera… that’s critical… and that he’s in proper position when the shutter is snapped. In the end, like with a candid, the ultimate skill may be in shot selection… which do I delete and which do I share?

  • bgrady413

    Ok, I am done with this guy, can we move on?