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Here’s what happens when you try to bodypaint at the pyramids

The Egyptian guard was staring me down from a camel.

He demanded we hand over our passports and camera, but we weren’t budging. “Fine! You go!” he yelled. And just like that, we’d officially been kicked out of the pyramids.

I had been working on a bodypaint series around the world where I paint models into the surrounding scenery, juxtaposing the hard lines of architectures against the soft flesh of the body. For the series, I traveled to the Wonders of the World to find out what makes these sites places of “wonder.”

After arriving at the pyramids a year ago, I found myself bodypainting as fast as humanly possible in a remote area so I wouldn’t end up in an Egyptian jail. I set my model on top of a pile of rubble and trash and marked where the camera would take the picture.

I ran up and down the mound of trash and rubble, painting my model to blend into the pyramids using only paint and that perspective point. If you walked to the left or to the right or got up close to the model, it would look like a giant mess. But from that single perspective point there was order and near-perfection.

Merry painted this model to blend with Stonehenge in England. Bodypaint and photo by Trina Merry

Merry painted this model to blend with Stonehenge in England. Bodypaint and photo by Trina Merry

I saved the clouds for very last. Luckily, very little sand had blown into my paint, and the clouds were barely moving. I grabbed two sponges, one covered in white and one covered in grey, and in less then five minutes, I covered my model in “clouds.” I quickly took about 20 pictures and grabbed about 30 seconds of video before the guard caught up to us.

After nearly 10 years working as a bodypainter, I’m amazed when people ask if I can just do this in a studio in front of a printed backdrop or Photoshop it. I suppose I could, but it would look flat. There would be no adventure and no life in my art. Instead I walked away with an amazing education that only comes from spending time in wonder, learning about what the world really looks like instead of reading about it in a classroom.

You can see more of Merry’s work from the series below.

A model stands in front of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. Bodypaint and photo by Trina Merry

A model stands in front of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. Bodypaint and photo by Trina Merry

A model poses in front of Machu Picchu in Peru. Bodypaint and photo by Trina Merry

A model poses in front of Machu Picchu in Peru. Bodypaint and photo by Trina Merry

A model poses at Petra, the ancient city and archeaological site located in the Jordanian desert. Bodypaint and photo by Trina Merry

A model poses at Petra, the ancient city and archeaological site located in the Jordanian desert. Bodypaint and photo by Trina Merry

Merry painted this model in front of the Great Wall of China. She later had to finish the painting indoors because the model began showing signs of frostbite. Bodypaint and photo by Trina Merry

Merry painted this model in front of the Great Wall of China. She had to finish the painting indoors because the model began showing signs of frostbite. Bodypaint and photo by Trina Merry

The word “parallax” describes the camera error that occurs when an image looks different through a viewfinder than how it is recorded by a sensor; when one camera gives two perspectives. Parallax is a blog where photographers offer the unexpected sides and stories of their work. Tell us yours or share on Instagram at #PBSParallax.

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