The Artist in the Mirror, as Seen Through a Smartphone

Photo recursion in video form

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The Droste effect occurs when a picture appears within itself, in a place where a different picture would generally be expected. You may know the effect, in art, as mise en abyme (as in Velazquez's painter-in-the-mirror in "Las Meninas"); you may also know it, slightly more scientifically, as a "strange loop." But you most likely know it, in a less explicit form, as a popular trope in digital photography: pictures-of-pictures-that-are-seen-through-smartphone-screens.

Alexander Kolomietz combined all of those iterations to create the iterative video above. At a recent birthday party, the photography fan asked his smartphone-equipped friends (more than 20 of them) to arrange themselves into a circle. And then he asked them to aim their cameras at the phones of the people in front of them -- creating, basically, a screen-based daisy chain. Kolomietz collected the resulting photos and, with the help of a bit of image processing, turned them all into a video. One that is dizzying and just a tiny bit frightening and either way a fitting tribute to a world that is, increasingly, mediated by screens.

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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