Liu Bolin Hiding in the City Red No. 1
Artist Lui Bolin is the true master of disguise. See if you can find him in this photo.



Artist Liu Bolin Brilliantly Camouflages Himself Within Photos

Liu Bolin is photography’s invisible man. The Chinese image maker is known for camouflaging himself into his works by painting himself to blend in with the subject matter, and it’s insanely cool. While the images look totally seamless, they don’t come easy: one photo can take up to 10 hours to prepare. In one of Bolin’s most popular series, Hiding in the City, he paints himself into different landscapes of China as a form of silent protest, aiming to “draw attention to social and political issues by dissolving into the background.” In his TED talk, he discussed his choice to enter the realm of political photography, stating that “After finishing this series of protests, I started questioning why my fate was like this, and I realized that it’s just not me—all Chinese are as confused as I am.” 

Liu Bolin, Hiding in the City No. 16 and No. 17, 2006
Liu Bolin paints himself into the background of his photographs. Here is Hiding in the City No. 16 and No. 17, 2006.

While Bolin does continuously do his disappearing act in his work, he isn’t a one trick pony. “Disappearing is not the main point of my work,” he said. “It’s just the method I use to pass on a message… It’s my way to convey all the anxiety I feel for human beings.” He doesn’t plan on switching it up either. ”I have never thought to stop ‘disappearing,'” he said. “The society we live in is changing tremendously everyday. The background I use today, might be gone tomorrow. Therefore, I think my works will continue to become more valuable as they evolve to address more significant ideas.”

Liu Bolin Hiding in the City Red No. 1.

Lately, Liu has gone more global with his work, focusing on pressing issues that aren’t just relevant to China. His latest series, called Migrants, looks into the refugee crisis. Instead of camouflaging himself, he paints multiple people. One photo that definitely stands out is “Migrants No. 2,” where African migrants are pictured painted to blend into the sand of the beach. Bolin says that “Migrants lying on the sand… may seem like corpses; Instead my intent is to describe their arrival and the start of their future.”

Migrants No. 2
Liu Bolin, Migrants No. 2, which draws attention to the refugee crisis.

Bolin will be featured as one of the five artists in the United Nations’ exhibit We Are What We Eat, which touches upon the topics of “population, economic growth, malnutrition, and overconsumption.” It recently opened on April 28th, so you should check it out. Try playing Eye Spy.

Photos via Liu Bolin.

Stay tuned to Milk for more wild works of art.

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