Mind-bending photo illusions created by homeless young Scots go on show in Edinburgh

An exhibition of mind-bending photographic illusions created by young people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, opens in Edinburgh just before Christmas.

Mind-bending photo illusions created by homeless young Scots go on show in Edinburgh

One of the pieces for exhibition

The Power of Perspective features a host of striking images that play with perceptions and perspectives – with shadow people flying real balloons and juggling coloured balls and “invisible” people reflected in water.

The project involved a group of 16- to 25-year-olds from around Scotland, supported by the Rock Trust, who worked with illusion expert Professor Richard Wiseman and the Edinburgh International Magic Festival – known as MagicFest.

Running from 22 December to 26 January, and free to see, The Power of Perspective is being hosted at two venues.

The photos will be displayed at the Scottish Storytelling Centre and visitors can then go into The Museum of Edinburgh to find out the secrets behind how the illusions were created.

Mind-bending photo illusions created by homeless young Scots go on show in Edinburgh

Prof. Wiseman, who is also the writer of the MagicFest children’s show You Are Magic, said: “I really enjoyed working with these young people – they had such enthusiasm and imagination. The pictures they have created are superb and it will be really fun for visitors to see if they can work out how some of the illusions were created.

Mind-bending photo illusions created by homeless young Scots go on show in Edinburgh

“Illusions help people to perceive the world in a different way, and I hope that will happen here. Likewise, it is important that we make myths surrounding homelessness vanish and replace them with a more accurate way of seeing what’s really going on.”

The Power of Perspective is an outreach project being run as part of the 10th annual MagicFest, which is bringing magical events of all kinds to the city over Christmas and the New Year.

Organisers, Svetlana McMahon and her magician husband Kevin Quantum, believe that sharing the skills involved in magic can bring major benefits to young people.

Ms McMahon said: “Looking at these photos you can see straight away how much the young people have learned – it takes a lot of skill to create photographic illusions.  

“This was a brilliant way for them to gain confidence by getting involved with something that is really creative, lots of fun and got great results. They have every reason to be very proud that the illusions they have created are being included in a public exhibition.

“We really hope that the project can help these young people to be seen and heard and contribute to their transition to adulthood while avoiding or moving on from homelessness.”

Rock Trust is a youth homelessness charity that has been based in Edinburgh since 1991. As part of its youth development services in Edinburgh, it runs weekly groups for young people that focus on skill-development and creating new opportunities. A significant aspect of this involves working in partnership with other local groups and organisations, to increase participants’ networks and open new doors. 

The partnership with MagicFest has been a successful example, offering young people attending the group a chance to develop their photography skills and work alongside professional magicians, illusionists and photographers.

Kate Polson, Rock Trust CEO, said: “Providing our young people with opportunities to develop their skills and share their perspectives is an integral part of what we do at Rock Trust and we were delighted to work with Edinburgh Magic Festival on this project. 

“The final pieces that have been produced are phenomenal and the young people involved are rightly proud of what they’ve created. We would highly recommend everyone go along and see the exhibition in person.” 

One of the youth participants added: “Being involved in this project and having the opportunity to play a small part in how homeless young people and homelessness are viewed has been very humbling and rewarding. I hope this exhibition will show we are just young people who have had bumps in the road and no one is safe or immune from the grasps of homelessness, it can happen to anyone. This exhibition and these illusions aim to show how we feel and our opinions.” 

The exhibition is just one of the attractions at the Scottish Storytelling Centre during the festive season.

Daniel Abercrombie, programme & events manager, Scottish Storytelling Centre, commented: “For the second year running we are pleased to partner with MagicFest to see our exhibition wall covered in the young people’s illusions and tricks. How did they do it? I have no idea, but it looks great fun!”

Councillor Donald Wilson, Edinburgh’s convener of culture and communities, added: “This exhibition is a fantastic example of a positive collaboration between our city’s venues, museums and galleries and one of our exciting local festivals.  

“Once visitors have seen the mind-boggling images in the Scottish Storytelling Centre they can visit us in the Museum of Edinburgh to see what was involved in their creation. A fascinating insight, everyone can appreciate the new skills learned as well as all the hard work by the young people that has been put into the exhibition.  Come along and witness the magic”.

See the exhibition:

  • Where: Enjoy the illusions at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1SR and then see how they were created at the Museum of Edinburgh 142-146, Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DD.
  • When: Sunday 22 December to Sunday 26 January. 
  • Entry: Free.
  • Times: See magicfest.co.uk website for exact opening hours during holiday season.
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