itwonlast

Self-Portrait, 1920
Sometimes referred to as the “father of camouflage”, Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849 – 1921) was an American painter of portraits, figures, animals and landscapes, and a naturalist. During the last third of his life, he worked together with his son on a major book about protective coloration in nature, titled Concealing-Coloration in the Animal Kingdom: An Exposition of the Laws of Disguise Through Color and Pattern; Being a Summary of Abbott H. Thayer’s Disclosures and illustrating Thayer’s belief that all animal coloration, regardless of its apparent visibility, was the result of the natural-selection process that allowed animals to go unnoticed by predators or prey. Despite the evident fallacy of this belief, Thayer made a significant contribution to the study of camouflage by describing and differentiating the ways in which animals conceal themselves.
Thayer identified two visual phenomena undergirding this invisibility: “obliterative countershading” and “disruptive patterning.” In the first, animal skins achieve an illusion of monochrome flatness via coloration darkest in sunlit parts and lightest in areas generally bathed in shadows: examples include the light bellies of otherwise dark rabbit coats or the silver undersides of sharks. The resulting visual compression of a three-dimensional form produces an illusion of monochrome flatness. The second principle takes this illusion to the next level of protective concealment: mottled patterns corresponding to the animal’s habitat disrupt the contours of its flat silhouette, resulting in an impression of not being there. An example is the coloration of bullfrogs. Natural selection, continued Thayer, favors individuals visually expressing one or both of these traits and constructs a world of momentarily evanescent animal objects.
This protective coloration was, claimed Thayer, related to a notion of concealment specific to a particular instant snapped out of a continuum of time. As he would later write, “At these crucial moments in the lives of animals when they are on the verge of catching or being caught, sight is the indispensable sense. It is for these moments that their coloration is best adapted, and when looked at from the viewpoint of the enemy or prey as the case may be, proves to be obliterative.”
Thayer introduced his law as a scientific discovery of great importance, uncovered through the workings of an artistic mind. Thayer’s first scientific article received widespread and justified praise. Using the language of art and optics, he had, for perhaps the first time, explained precisely why many animals seem to blend in with their surroundings. In 1903, he extended his powers of observation to elucidate another principle of camouflage, the disruptive effects of patterned markings such as stripes or spots. These markings disguise an animal’s contours by making its contiguous parts seem unrelated to one another.
Many of Thayer’s projects were collected in the massive and profusely illustrated 1909 publication Concealing-Coloration in the Animal Kingdom. The book sold well, yet had its skeptics. Some biologists, including those initially supportive of Thayer’s work in the 1890s, were quick to point out that many animals use their coloration to become more visible, as when trying to attract the attention of a potential mate or to ward away potential predators. Thayer seems to have been stubbornly resistant to questioning and to contradictory evidence.
While the US government had been resistant at the turn of the century to Thayer’s exhortations that “ruptive” or “dazzle” camouflage could be useful in wartime, by the advent of World War I, they became a receptive audience. A special group of artists, designers, and carpenters designated Company A of the 40th Engineers was enlisted as the “Camouflage Corps” to study and implement the principles of concealing coloration. Thus, although not himself an active member of the team who developed military camouflage, Thayer’s beliefs about disruptive optics found both staunch support and pragmatic use.
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Self-Portrait, 1920

Sometimes referred to as the “father of camouflage”, Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849 – 1921) was an American painter of portraits, figures, animals and landscapes, and a naturalist. During the last third of his life, he worked together with his son on a major book about protective coloration in nature, titled Concealing-Coloration in the Animal Kingdom: An Exposition of the Laws of Disguise Through Color and Pattern; Being a Summary of Abbott H. Thayer’s Disclosures and illustrating Thayer’s belief that all animal coloration, regardless of its apparent visibility, was the result of the natural-selection process that allowed animals to go unnoticed by predators or prey. Despite the evident fallacy of this belief, Thayer made a significant contribution to the study of camouflage by describing and differentiating the ways in which animals conceal themselves.

Thayer identified two visual phenomena undergirding this invisibility: “obliterative countershading” and “disruptive patterning.” In the first, animal skins achieve an illusion of monochrome flatness via coloration darkest in sunlit parts and lightest in areas generally bathed in shadows: examples include the light bellies of otherwise dark rabbit coats or the silver undersides of sharks. The resulting visual compression of a three-dimensional form produces an illusion of monochrome flatness. The second principle takes this illusion to the next level of protective concealment: mottled patterns corresponding to the animal’s habitat disrupt the contours of its flat silhouette, resulting in an impression of not being there. An example is the coloration of bullfrogs. Natural selection, continued Thayer, favors individuals visually expressing one or both of these traits and constructs a world of momentarily evanescent animal objects.

This protective coloration was, claimed Thayer, related to a notion of concealment specific to a particular instant snapped out of a continuum of time. As he would later write, “At these crucial moments in the lives of animals when they are on the verge of catching or being caught, sight is the indispensable sense. It is for these moments that their coloration is best adapted, and when looked at from the viewpoint of the enemy or prey as the case may be, proves to be obliterative.”

Thayer introduced his law as a scientific discovery of great importance, uncovered through the workings of an artistic mind. Thayer’s first scientific article received widespread and justified praise. Using the language of art and optics, he had, for perhaps the first time, explained precisely why many animals seem to blend in with their surroundings. In 1903, he extended his powers of observation to elucidate another principle of camouflage, the disruptive effects of patterned markings such as stripes or spots. These markings disguise an animal’s contours by making its contiguous parts seem unrelated to one another.

Many of Thayer’s projects were collected in the massive and profusely illustrated 1909 publication Concealing-Coloration in the Animal Kingdom. The book sold well, yet had its skeptics. Some biologists, including those initially supportive of Thayer’s work in the 1890s, were quick to point out that many animals use their coloration to become more visible, as when trying to attract the attention of a potential mate or to ward away potential predators. Thayer seems to have been stubbornly resistant to questioning and to contradictory evidence.

While the US government had been resistant at the turn of the century to Thayer’s exhortations that “ruptive” or “dazzle” camouflage could be useful in wartime, by the advent of World War I, they became a receptive audience. A special group of artists, designers, and carpenters designated Company A of the 40th Engineers was enlisted as the “Camouflage Corps” to study and implement the principles of concealing coloration. Thus, although not himself an active member of the team who developed military camouflage, Thayer’s beliefs about disruptive optics found both staunch support and pragmatic use.

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Charles André Mare (1885–1932) was a French painter and designer. During the First World War, Mare joined the French Camouflage Corps where he led the development of military camouflage, painting artillery using Cubism techniques to deceive the eye. His ink and watercolour painting Le canon de 280 camouflé (The Camouflaged 280 Gun) shows the close interplay of abstract art and military application at that time. His aid was his life-long friend painter Fernand Léger. Together they developed processes ranging from painted canvases to camouflage nets and dummy figures and materiel. He kept an illustrated and thorough journal of his experiences, ultimately publishing his book “Cubism and Camouflage, 1914-1918″.
Mare applied the principles of disruptive coloration camouflage using forms derived from Cubism: bands of colour juxtaposed to prevent the eye from recognizing the shape of a gun barrel, for example. Colours are chosen to overlap with those of the surrounding landscape. At that time, Mare painted ten of his many watercolour sketchbooks in Cubist style.
But Mare didn’t limit himself to Cubism: “I found myself in a huge hayloft and I painted nine ‘Kandinskys’ (…) on tent canvas. This process had a very useful purpose: to make artillery positions invisible to reconnaissance planes and aerial photography by covering them with canvases painted in a roughly pointillist style and in line with observation of the colours of natural camouflage (mimicry) (…) From now on, painting must make the picture that betrays our presence sufficiently blurred and distorted for the position to be unrecognisable. The division is going to provide us with a plane to experiment with some aerial photographs to see how it looks from the air. I’m very interested to see the effect of a Kandinsky from six thousand feet.”

Charles André Mare (1885–1932) was a French painter and designer. During the First World War, Mare joined the French Camouflage Corps where he led the development of military camouflage, painting artillery using Cubism techniques to deceive the eye. His ink and watercolour painting Le canon de 280 camouflé (The Camouflaged 280 Gun) shows the close interplay of abstract art and military application at that time. His aid was his life-long friend painter Fernand Léger. Together they developed processes ranging from painted canvases to camouflage nets and dummy figures and materiel. He kept an illustrated and thorough journal of his experiences, ultimately publishing his book “Cubism and Camouflage, 1914-1918″.

Mare applied the principles of disruptive coloration camouflage using forms derived from Cubism: bands of colour juxtaposed to prevent the eye from recognizing the shape of a gun barrel, for example. Colours are chosen to overlap with those of the surrounding landscape. At that time, Mare painted ten of his many watercolour sketchbooks in Cubist style.

But Mare didn’t limit himself to Cubism: “I found myself in a huge hayloft and I painted nine ‘Kandinskys’ (…) on tent canvas. This process had a very useful purpose: to make artillery positions invisible to reconnaissance planes and aerial photography by covering them with canvases painted in a roughly pointillist style and in line with observation of the colours of natural camouflage (mimicry) (…) From now on, painting must make the picture that betrays our presence sufficiently blurred and distorted for the position to be unrecognisable. The division is going to provide us with a plane to experiment with some aerial photographs to see how it looks from the air. I’m very interested to see the effect of a Kandinsky from six thousand feet.”

When Google introduced its free satellite imagery service to the world in 2005, views of our planet previously accessible only to astronauts and professional surveyors were suddenly available to anyone with an internet connection. Yet the vistas revealed by this technology were not universally embraced.
Governments concerned about the sudden visibility of political, economic and military locations exerted considerable influence on suppliers of this imagery to censor sites deemed vital to national security. This form of censorship continues today, and techniques vary from country to country with preferred methods generally including use of digital cloning, blurring, pixelization and whitening out sites of interest.
Surprisingly, one of the most vociferous of all governments to enforce this form of censorship were the Dutch, hiding hundreds of significant sites including royal palaces, fuel depots and army barracks throughout their relatively small country. The Dutch method of censorship is notable for its stylistic inventiveness compared to other countries: imposing bold, multi-coloured polygons over sites rather than the subtler and more standard techniques employed elsewhere. The result is a landscape occasionally punctuated by sharp aesthetic contrasts between secret sites and the rural and urban environments surrounding them. (via)

When Google introduced its free satellite imagery service to the world in 2005, views of our planet previously accessible only to astronauts and professional surveyors were suddenly available to anyone with an internet connection. Yet the vistas revealed by this technology were not universally embraced.

Governments concerned about the sudden visibility of political, economic and military locations exerted considerable influence on suppliers of this imagery to censor sites deemed vital to national security. This form of censorship continues today, and techniques vary from country to country with preferred methods generally including use of digital cloning, blurring, pixelization and whitening out sites of interest.

Surprisingly, one of the most vociferous of all governments to enforce this form of censorship were the Dutch, hiding hundreds of significant sites including royal palaces, fuel depots and army barracks throughout their relatively small country. The Dutch method of censorship is notable for its stylistic inventiveness compared to other countries: imposing bold, multi-coloured polygons over sites rather than the subtler and more standard techniques employed elsewhere. The result is a landscape occasionally punctuated by sharp aesthetic contrasts between secret sites and the rural and urban environments surrounding them. (via)

Inspired by Dazzle camouflage techniques pioneered during WWI, Adam Harvey’s thesis project CV Dazzle intends to design a camouflage system against computer vision (CV), that is face detection and recognition technologies.
It is a form of expressive interference that combines makeup and hair styling (or other modifications) with face-detection thwarting designs.
Face detection implementation in CV systems is mostly based (like many other CV techniques) on statistical analysis. This means that these systems have certain assumptions built into them, assumptions like for example, sharp changes in contrast to be expected in certain positions of the face (those would be read as eyes) and these eyes are to be expected at certain distances from the mouth or the nose. The training of these systems gives them an impression of what an average face looks like and they have an internal mathematical description of this abstract face.
"There’s a lot of trial and error," Harvey said. "The common thread is throwing off the symmetry" the algorithm looks for. “It’s a lot more difficult than applying a bunch of makeup and hoping it works or putting on your 3D glasses left over from Avatar… The point of this project from the beginning has been to create disguises that do more than simply hide a person’s face."

Inspired by Dazzle camouflage techniques pioneered during WWI, Adam Harvey’s thesis project CV Dazzle intends to design a camouflage system against computer vision (CV), that is face detection and recognition technologies.

It is a form of expressive interference that combines makeup and hair styling (or other modifications) with face-detection thwarting designs.

Face detection implementation in CV systems is mostly based (like many other CV techniques) on statistical analysis. This means that these systems have certain assumptions built into them, assumptions like for example, sharp changes in contrast to be expected in certain positions of the face (those would be read as eyes) and these eyes are to be expected at certain distances from the mouth or the nose. The training of these systems gives them an impression of what an average face looks like and they have an internal mathematical description of this abstract face.

"There’s a lot of trial and error," Harvey said. "The common thread is throwing off the symmetry" the algorithm looks for. “It’s a lot more difficult than applying a bunch of makeup and hoping it works or putting on your 3D glasses left over from Avatar… The point of this project from the beginning has been to create disguises that do more than simply hide a person’s face."

Cryptic toads

Cryptic toads

Leaf insects (family Phylliidae) are such a bunch of perfectionists, they pretty much put all other natural camouflages to shame. Non content with mimicking leaves down to their veins patterns, some of them sport what looks like bite marks and brown and curled edges. They also move like leaves to elude their predators, swaying in the breeze and rocking back and forth when they walk. Last but not least, most species are able to reproduce without a male, the insect will basically clone itself. It doesn’t get more ninja than that.

Leaf insects (family Phylliidae) are such a bunch of perfectionists, they pretty much put all other natural camouflages to shame. Non content with mimicking leaves down to their veins patterns, some of them sport what looks like bite marks and brown and curled edges. They also move like leaves to elude their predators, swaying in the breeze and rocking back and forth when they walk. Last but not least, most species are able to reproduce without a male, the insect will basically clone itself. It doesn’t get more ninja than that.

Painter Norman Wilkinson, inventor of Dazzle camouflage, shows off his design in front of one of his paintings. The “dazzle” scheme was developed by Wilkinson in 1917 as part of his reflection about disruptive coloration for naval  camouflage. Made of angular shapes and blocks of color, Dazzle camouflage purpose was more about confusion  than concealment. As Wilkinson writes, “the painting of ships with the ‘Dazzle’ scheme is based on the  general assumption that it is impossible to obtain invisibility at sea,  especially where as in the case of an attacking submarine, the object is  seen against the sky with practically no sea to form a background…the  only course open is to paint her in such a way as to deceive the  attacker as to her size and course; this can only be done by extreme  contrasts of colour and shapes which will so distort the vessel outline as to  the symmetry and bulk.”

Painter Norman Wilkinson, inventor of Dazzle camouflage, shows off his design in front of one of his paintings. The “dazzle” scheme was developed by Wilkinson in 1917 as part of his reflection about disruptive coloration for naval camouflage. Made of angular shapes and blocks of color, Dazzle camouflage purpose was more about confusion  than concealment. As Wilkinson writes, “the painting of ships with the ‘Dazzle’ scheme is based on the general assumption that it is impossible to obtain invisibility at sea, especially where as in the case of an attacking submarine, the object is seen against the sky with practically no sea to form a background…the only course open is to paint her in such a way as to deceive the attacker as to her size and course; this can only be done by extreme contrasts of colour and shapes which will so distort the vessel outline as to the symmetry and bulk.”