Bizarre or trending subjects? Catch a break with our curiosity of the week. Since 2016, the American photographer John Dykstra has been specialising in image manipulation… without using Photoshop. The result? Magic tricks in picture!

John Dykstra discovered the power of photography in Jamaica, when he and his father were volunteering in an orphanage. “The landscape was so overwhelming… We had to drive through waterfalls just to access the building”, he recalls. At the time, he started capturing the surreal nature which seemed to belong in a fantasy world. When he came back to the United States, John enrolled in a photo college course. There, he discovered studio photography and learnt to master Photoshop. A technical background which helped him develop his own aesthetics.

“During my last semester of college, I realised that one of the most compelling parts of photography is its realism”, John explains. “Yet, I knew photography did not record reality as far as we know it, nor was it ever truly honest. And I had also seen the dark side with photo manipulation…”

The magic of reality

Inspired by this ambiguous relationship with reality, the photographer started creating surreal images, produced without digital manipulation. “I began working with practical effects in 2016, and I completely abandoned digital manipulation by 2018”, he explains. “Right now, most of my images deal with anamorphic illusions, which depend upon the perspective of the camera”.

About his geometrical shapes? The photographer was inspired by Photoshop. “I use layers, just like in the software. I can draw on black chalkboard, behind the subject, I can draw in the foreground in front of them, on a transparent piece of glass”. 3D illusions, devices hidden in objects, tools glued on glass… John’s images can be read like magic tricks we can’t help trying to decipher.

© John Dykstra