Uninformed Comment

The Droste effect

Posted in Art, Technology by uninformedcomment on May 10, 2009

A while ago, I came across an article discussing the “Droste effect”, which was an unfamiliar term describing a type of imagery that’s pretty well-known.  The above 1904 advert for Droste cocoa is thought of as the most famous and original example – a nurse bearing a tray on which is a packet of cocoa, which itself has a picture of a nurse bearing a tray on which …

The Wiki entry for the term points us at various other examples, including the cover for the Pink Floyd album Ummagumma, which I know well from my neo-hippy past:

"Wow, man - it's got itself in it!"

So, curious, I decided to create my own Droste-effect picture, using nothing more than a camera and Photoshop.  And an SD card reader to copy from the camera to the PC.  And an SD card.  And a PC.  And my monitor and desk.  And … here it is:

Droste effect

Click for full-size version

I guess I could do a tutorial, but I’m sure there are better ones out there, and I certainly don’t count myself as any kind of Photoshop expert.  In fact, instead I’ll leave you with a technical question for the true Photoshoppers out there:

To make that image, I repeatedly copy/pasted the whole image into a new document, resized the new image down, and pasted it back in as a layer before moving it into place as the “display”.  Creating a temporary document wouldn’t be necessary if there were some way to resize a layer within a document without affecting the other layers, but I’ve not been able to find out how to do that.  Other than, of course, the rather clunky way I do it now.

So if you know the answer, please comment here or drop me a line.

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3 Responses

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  1. Peter Ward said, on June 16, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    The Ummagumma album isn’t a pure Droste effect, as the members of the band change position in each image. Gilmour’s in front on the main image, the next smallest it’s Waters, Gilmour’s on the grass at the back, and the other two have moved forward. And so on.

    • uninformedcomment said, on June 16, 2009 at 5:23 pm

      Thanks, Peter, I’d not noticed that, at least this time around. Perhaps there should be another term for that sort of thing: “faux-Droste”, perhaps, or “Superdroste”, or “DrosteXTreme”. And perhaps I’m best leaving the naming to someone else …

  2. Paul Madarasz said, on December 20, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    Here in Leftpondia, we used to have Carnation Condensed Milk, which had, IIRC, a cow’s head sticking out of a can of Carnation CM, which had the recursive cow’s head ad infinitium. They seemed to have stopped that sometime in the late 50s or early 60s. It was a pretty dinky illustration, so there wasn’t much recursion.


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