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These Surreal Photos Were All Created Without Photoshop


Photographer John Dykstra says he believes in the power of perspective. His surreal photo style is created entirely with practical effects and simple ingredients — things like paint, chalk, and glass — rather than digital image manipulation techniques.

“My goal is to create photographs that dabble between abstract truths and concrete reality,” Dykstra says. “By drawing connections between illusions of realism and the subjectivity of human experience, my work lingers between daylight and daydream.”

Here’s his account of how his first anamorphic illusion (shown above) came about:

My first idea came to me when I thought about how our perspective can trap us, and how so many of our boundaries in life are self-imposed and illusionary. Combining that thought with anamorphic illusions lead me to the idea for “Penalty Box,” a self-portrait that depicts me as drawing the illusion of a box around myself in chalk. At first I tried drawing the illusion on paper, but that didn’t work at all. Then I remembered the work of John Chervinsky, who I discovered a month earlier just after his passing. He was using chalk on chalkboard to create these very interesting photographs, and I knew I had found the solution to creating my piece. I quickly built a small 8’ x 8’ x 4’ plywood stage in my parents’ garage—God bless them for letting me use that space—covered it with a pint of chalkboard paint, set up my camera, and then the magic happened.

Here are some more of Dykstra’s photos:

Here’s a photo next to a behind-the-scenes view showing how the illusion was created using chalk marker on a sheet of glass:

You can find more of Dykstra’s work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram.