Dazzle Ship Camouflage









Inspired by a recent episode of Roman Mars’ wonderful podcast 99% Invisible, I sought out a few images of WWI-era “dazzle” ship camouflage. Rather than blending a target with its surrounding colors and textures, dazzle (aka “razzle dazzle” or “dazzle painting”) deliberately caused ships to clash with the sea and sky, creating eye-aching shimmer effects and making it difficult to discern the craft’s direction, speed, and distance. The hope—and it was a hope, as dazzle inventor Norman Wilkinson’s theories were never properly proven—was that the bedazzle’d ships would so confuse enemy submarines that their torpedoes would never meet their mark. The nautical old guard, as one would expect, rejected Wilkinson’s sweetly cracked vision; the artists of the era’s burgeoning Cubist movement, however, were utterly delighted.

Posted by: Todd Goldstein | Instagram: @toddiangoldstein

8 Comments Leave A Comment


drew kora says:

January 3, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Awesome. This is the inspiration for OMD’s album “Dazzleships.” It is, perhaps, one of the greatest albums of the 80s.

Back on topic, I’ve always been floored by these images. So very cool and it makes perfect sense. In a world where ships were sunk based on dudes looking through artillery scopes, it would be really tough to make heads or tales of these targets.

It also reminds me of the crazy patterns made by herds of zebras running from a lion. The combined patterns in motion confuse the lion and throw off their depth perception, making it harder to lunge accurately at prey. Nature’s pretty cool, eh?


logo says:

January 9, 2013 at 12:29 am

Amazing! Amazing photos. I admire. The designs are very good. Framing is very good. Light and colors are very good. Thanks for sharing.


Aryeh Wetherhorn says:

January 16, 2013 at 1:02 pm

There are so many good WW I designs. Why spoil it with a number of pictures from WW II?