Viewed from the right angle, the world can be a joyful mise-en-scène of childhood imagination. For nearly 7 years, Spanish artists Anna Devís and Daniel Rueda have turned large windows into hot air balloons, brown hats into avocado pits, umbrellas into Mickey Mouse silhouettes, and have created many more optical illusions utilizing nothing more than props, costumes, paint, and buildings.
“Sometimes architecture tells us stories,” says Devís, who’s featured in the majority of the duo’s photos. “Sometimes we have ideas in mind and need to find the right location.”
“But we always start with a blank piece of paper,” Rueda says.
The duo prides themselves in using Photoshop only when necessary, opting instead to shoot using practical effects in real-life locations. The guerilla approach often means passersby will ask questions and hold up production by taking their own photos. But that’s part of the charm—part of the philosophy behind making these playful, humorous moments as real as possible. It also reveals the hidden fun in architecture.
“When we are walking around, our brains are actively working and scouting … even if we don’t mean to,” Devís says, smiling. She mentions avoiding any screentime on a walk and taking longer paths to discover new locations.
Every idea begins with a sketch. Given their design skills—the two met while studying architecture at the Universitat Politècnica de València—Devís and Rueda then use architecture software to build sets ahead of time to understand the human scale in order to create optical illusions with meticulous precision.
“Getting that right on camera is super complicated,” explains Rueda. “Everything in the software is scaled 1:1 so when we actually set up the camera, the props, the model, and the outfits—everything fits perfectly. … It’s a long process.”
Such geometrical thinking is exhibited in their recent ad work for Desperados beer where a canonical lamp casts a yellow, bottle-shaped light over a couple sitting at a bar table. “Everything needs to fit in this particular shape of the bottle,” Rueda says. “It’s not like you can buy just any table at IKEA.”
“But we are problem-solvers,” Devís says.
That tenacity shows in work they’ve done for multiple brands (Disney, Netflix, Facebook), and with shoots across Argentina, Austria, Qatar, Denmark … The list goes on. But this playful perspective encapsulates a much broader idea: that beauty and imagination are ubiquitous—you just need to open your eyes.
“These,” Rueda says, “are our love letters to the city.”
Words by David MacNeal
Images courtesy of Anna Devís and Daniel Rueda