For the past few years, Austrian photographer, Stefan Draschan has spent countless hours chasing after the perfect moments to take photos. He waited around for what would feel like an eternity, just waiting for the perfect shot. And you’ll see just how perfect we’re talking about. Draschan waited around for museum visitors to stand in front of artworks. But not just any visitor and any painting. He managed to capture visitors who happened to resemble the painting they were staring at. And the results are quite fascinating!
Draschan is the mastermind behind the popular blog called People Matching Artworks. As the name suggests, he captures serendipitous encounters between people and works of art who go so well together; they just need to be seen. Now, you might be thinking that these images were staged, but they weren’t! Daschan’s only secret: patience.
Scroll down to see for yourself!
These Scenes are Not Staged
It’s only natural to think that Stefan Draschan’s cool pictures are staged, he assures people that they indeed are not. He claims that the only secret behind the awesome results is his patience. And by patience, I think he means something way beyond our laymen’s understanding of the word. You say patience, and I think of waiting patiently in a McDonald’s lineup to buy a Big Mac.
When this photographer says patience, he’s referring to hours upon hours of sitting in museums and keeping a real keen eye on what he is witnessing in front of him. Not only does the visitor have to appear somewhat similar to the painting that he or she is standing in front of, but Draschan also has to manage to get behind them and click the photo at the right time.
The Harmony Between People and Art
This photographer actually enjoys going to different museums, but he mostly visits the ones in Paris, Vienna, and Berlin. The results of his bright idea are these funny and unique photos of unexpected harmony between the people in museums and the classical paintings they’re viewing with wonder and interest. This series gives new meaning to the phrase life imitating art. Or is it art imitating life?
It kind of makes you wonder: when’s the last time you were at a museum looking at artworks and did you wear something that also matched the art you were standing in front of?
Looking through Draschan’s series, you can see that it’s usually the outfits that match the artwork, but some people match the paintings because of their hairstyles, hair color, or even beards!
How the Project Began
The Austrian photographer’s project started in the summer of 2014, Draschan said in an interview. “I saw and captured the first match: a guy sitting in front of a Georges Braque in Berlin. Six months later, in Munich, I saw a guy who looked like the huge Greek vase behind him, and then in Vienna, I was breathless when I discovered a woman sitting in front of a Vermeer,” the photographer described.
“It then became clear that I would systematically look out for more of these coincidences.” After taking photos in the same museums for the past few years, Draschan developed a real grasp of the museums’ layouts, and could pretty much predict the pattern that visitors will follow. He described how he did it…
Watching Their Patterns
If he spots a person across the open space that fills up museums, he will follow them until they started to align with the piece of art that he already worked out in his mind and knew they would be heading towards next. The photos in his series all play with color, form, pattern, and size. They emphasize the elements between the art and the subject.
Draschan took up photography only four years ago, and he said he chose photography because it was a way to occupy his hands after he had just quit smoking. You gotta admit, that’s a pretty smart way to break a bad habit and turn your frustration into something positive! While most of us would buy the gum, this guy becomes an expert photographer!
An Eye for Design
Draschan always had an eye for design and a knack for being in sync with his surroundings. Before becoming an artist and photographer and starting his career, he worked as a journalist and a teacher. But he noted that despite his past experience, there was “nothing with a real enthusiasm like I have now.”
In addition to his series People Matching Artworks, he also made People Sleeping in Museums, People Touching Artworks, Cars Matching Homes, and The Three Graces, among other projects. All the time and effort Draschan puts into getting these moments captured is what makes looking at these images more impressive.
His series People Sleeping in Museums just shows how many people find museums boring, but this photographer can’t get enough of it!
What We’re Drawn To
While many people get extremely bored at museums (I am one of them), Stefan Draschan found a very fun way to keep himself entertained at all these famous galleries. The visitors don’t even realize it, but Draschan is looking for his next subject to become a part of a future exhibition. I guess he bought memberships to each museum considering how many times he’s visited the places!
Draschan will set up his camera near a painting that he thinks will stand a good chance of mimicking the look or hairstyle of a visitor. The photos that we are looking at spark lots of questions, one of them being: are we drawn towards objects that are similar to us? It’s interesting, isn’t it?
He Found His Calling
Draschan’s series “People Touching Artworks” captures moments of physical contact between the subject and the art. Draschan is captivated by people who are drawn into somnolence (or sleepiness) by museums, which he captures in his series “People Sleeping in Museums.” Draschan must be glad that he turned to photography after his other jobs, as it is clearly his calling.
“I just started photographing four years ago, I didn’t know that this is a talent of mine,” he said. “I had a bar, I was a teacher, and I was a journalist, so I just did not know that photography was something for me.” He explained how he picked up photography by accident: “When I quit smoking, I started photographing. I needed something in my hand. I used first an iPhone, and I just took random photographs.”
Draschan started his museum series accidentally. “It just happened by chance,” Draschan told CNN Travel. “I saw a guy matching an antique vase in the Glyptothek of Munich.” Draschan noticed other museum visitors accidentally coordinating with the artwork, and thus, his series was born. The project plays into his passion for art and museums: “I’m really personally also interested in art. I also like the theater, painting, sculpture, music, film.”
But Draschan says that he doesn’t have a favorite museum or gallery. “I would go in New York to the Metropolitan, to the Freer in Washington, to the National Gallery in San Francisco, everywhere — it’s mostly in each city maybe that I have a favorite museum,” he said in the interview.
His Favorite Paintings
Draschan was interviewed by many magazines and websites after his series caught the eye of many. CNN Travel asked him what his favorite paintings are. He named Edouard Manet as his favorite painter, but he said how he finds enjoyment in the works of many artists and from many movements. “For me, the longest I’ve spent in front of a painting is certain Caravaggio’s. I can pass 30 minutes, probably without breathing, in front of Caravaggio.”
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was a famous Italian painter in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily from the 1590s to 1610. His paintings typically combined a realistic observation of humans in their natural state, both physical and emotional, with a real dramatic use of lighting.
Draschan shared a lot about himself in the interview with CNN Travel. He explained how he doesn’t normally interact with the subjects in his photos. “If I’m photographing, I’m in a very silent, poetic mood, very concentrated, and speaking in between would be not so good,” he said. But occasionally, Draschan will break his rule, so to speak, and will talk to the museum visitors.
Draschan sometimes speaks to the people he photographs. “In one, it’s of a couple, and a couple is standing in front,” he says. “They were kissing each other, they were so cute — I showed them the photograph.” If you were the subject of one of his photos, what do you think you would say?
One Surprising Moment
Draschan also talked about one surprising moment he experienced when a woman got in touch with him via Instagram to tell him that she was the subject of one of his photos. “Someone from, I think, Japan discovered herself in front of a Monet,” says Draschan. “She wrote on Instagram that that’s her.”
Here’s something that shows the power of photography. In several of Draschan’s photos, the subjects are taking photographs of the art in front of them. The photographer said he doesn’t think this is a problem, contrary to what some museums and people would argue. “If you like photography, you cannot be against anything,” he explained. What do you think? Do you take photos in museums?
Exhibitions and Shows
Draschan has taken hundreds and hundreds of photographs, so naturally, he needs to accumulate and organize them. He also enjoys sharing his photos on Tumblr, Instagram, and on his website, but he says exhibitions are the most important. “I’m an artist, and I need to be in exhibitions, I like exhibitions if it’s solo shows or group shows. It’s very important for me to be showcasing the physical material itself,” he said.
So how does he (and most photographers for that matter) make a living? Draschan also sells his prints. “The internet is just to promote it, but I live from selling the photographs,” he said. He sells each of the prints individually or in unframed collections of 20 prints.
You might start to think that Draschan lives in a museum with all these museum photos. But the photographer does also take photographs outside of museums. “All of my average day I take photographs if I see lightning, I try and capture a fantastic photograph of lightning,” he says. In his series “People touching artworks,” he revealed: “I see it, and maybe it’s quite dangerous for the artworks.”
Stefan Draschan feels strongly about how individuals, and people in general, behave in museums and the preservation of artifacts. “This is the heritage of everything human mankind made,” he says. He’s one of those people that really believe in what museums are trying to create and provide. And that’s the preservation of historical artifacts.
His Future Goals
In his interview with CNN Travel, Draschan spoke of his excitement for what the future holds for him and where his photography will take him. “Everything’s just pure luck if something happens, I take a lot of photographs, of everything. I could do exhibitions on lightning, churches, various things,” he said.
He’s always searching for beauty. But that doesn’t mean only taking photos of good looking things. Draschan says that his work is less about his photographs’ settings and more about the aesthetic quality of the image. “I’m not only focused on museums, but I’m also always focused on beauty and on taking great photographs, this is my main goal at least,” Draschan said. While museums and art are already technically beautiful things, beauty is still in the eye of the beholder.
People Touching Artworks
The series of people touching art is one of the more recent projects that he embarked on. Some of them include a woman cradling the chin of a marble bust, a man holding a measuring tape up against an ancient mosaic. Another photo of his captured people in museums sporting the British flag on a t-shirt or hat in the weeks after the Brexit vote.
While his work might be the most recent, Draschan is not the only photographer to take inspiration from major museums and their galleries. For example, in 1989, German photographer Thomas Struth traveled between places like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Art Institute in Chicago for his best-known series “Museum Photographs.” He showcased visitors gazing thoughtfully at work in front of them.
His Commitment to the Craft
These days, Draschan can spend five days a week at museums with his camera, which he says is usually divided into periods of two to three hours. While other articles have claimed that he spends an “eternity” waiting for his shots, Draschan says that’s an exaggeration. “I never get to the museums before 2 p.m.,” he laughs.
Previously based between Berlin, Germany and Vienna, Austria, he’s been working out of Paris for the last few months. He admitted that he tends to “haunt” the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre.
He also admitted that he’s not immune to the weariness seen on many of the museum’s sleepy visitors, either. “Like every other person, after one and a half hours in a museum, I’m quite exhausted. I would also be one of the sleeping people without an espresso!”
Draschan is a big fan of caffeine, and when you think about it – he kind of needs to be! Hanging out in museums all day can get tiring. He recommends a particular brand from Naples, Passalacqua. “You drink two espressos in the morning, and you feel like a genius all day,” he said. Wow, I need to get my hands on that coffee!
His sleeping series was the most well-known for a number of years, and it was the subject of a museum panel featuring prominent German art historian Wolfgang Ullrich. That was before the “People Matching Artworks” series went viral. Since then, Draschan has received several invitations from museums in Europe (and abroad) to photograph their visitors and collections.
Draschan is currently in talks with a German museum regarding a two-month residency at their institution. It sounds like he is in for a very bright future!
Random but Interesting Facts
Since you’ve probably heard enough about Stefan Drachan and his work, I think I can move on to provide you with some interesting facts about all kinds of random things like museums, artists, and paintings, for example. You might be thinking about what can be interesting about museums, but I assure you, some crazy things have happened. Like the next fact about a stolen artifact.
Here’s a random museum fact: the Mask of Warka, the oldest discovered and accurate depiction of a human face (from 3100 BC), disappeared from the National Museum of Iraq after the 2003 U.S. invasion. What happened was a U.S. military mission searched for the lost artifacts and found the mask, undamaged, buried in a farmer’s backyard.
Tutankhamun’s Missing Beard
Tutankhamun’s golden mask was sitting pretty in the Egyptian Museum for a while. But then one day, the beard of the golden mask fell off during the cleaning process in 2014. Oops! Can you imagine how the cleaner felt? They had to come up with a solution, so the workers used epoxy glue to reattach the beard.
But not only is the fact that the beard fell a big no-no, but they also used glue, which made it obvious, and then they decided to keep it hush-hush. And since that was not the professional method of dealing with something like that and considering the permanent damage was done to the mask, the workers were prosecuted for the matter in 2016.
Did You Know?
Here’s a random fact: President Garfield’s assassin chose to use an ivory-handled gun over a similar wooden-handled gun because he knew that it would look better in a museum exhibit. Talk about egotistical! He basically knew that he would make the news and that people would want to keep the murder weapon! He was very thorough in his plan, I guess.
Another random fact: the Museum of Endangered Sounds is a museum that was made to allow the streaming of once-popular technological sounds. For example, the dial-up tone, ICQ chat tone, and Windows 95 startup. Who knew that a museum would be created to hold these iconic sounds that basically marked our childhoods? Visiting that museum would be an interesting experience.
This Way to Egress
Barnum’s American Museum used to have crowds that would linger inside for way too long. So, to make way for new paying visitors, signs read “This Way to the Egress” were put up. But the thing is that most people don’t know that Egress is another word for Exit, so people followed the signs with curiosity about what they assumed was another fascinating exhibit, but they just ended up outside.
In 2016, a 91-year-old woman filled out what she thought was a crossword but actually turned out to be a $116,000 artwork in a German museum.
Did you know that there is a museum in Croatia called Froggyland? The museum is entirely composed of more than 500 stuffed Frogs in human positions.
The Biggest Art Heist in History
On March 18, 1990, thirteen pieces of art were stolen from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. In the early hours of the day, guards let two men posing as police officers who were supposedly responding to a disturbance call. Once inside the museum, the thieves proceeded to tie up the guards and spend the next hour, looting the entire museum.
The FBI has valued the theft at $500 million in value, making it the largest recorded theft of private property in history. Despite the FBI’s efforts and the multiple probes around the world, no arrests were made, and none of the works have been recovered. The museum is offering a whopping $10 million reward for any information that can lead to the art’s recovery. That alone is the largest bounty ever offered by a private institution.
Isabella Stewart Gardner
The stolen works were originally acquired by art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840–1924) and were intended for permanent display at the museum along with the rest of her collection. Among the stolen pieces was The Concert, one of only 34 known paintings by the artist Vermeer and is thought to be the most valuable unrecovered painting in the world. It looks like the thieves did their homework.
Another missing artwork is The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, which is Rembrandt’s only seascape painting. Other artworks by Rembrandt, Degas, Manet, and Flinck were stolen. Experts are confused by the thieves’ choices since more valuable works were left untouched in the museum. It’s strange, considering how they clearly knew what they were doing.
In Their Absence
Since the museum’s collection and its layout are meant to be permanent, empty frames remain hanging where the artworks were and should be. They’re there in homage to the missing art pieces and as placeholders for their (hopeful) return. The FBI has obviously done a thorough investigation and believes the robbery was planned by a criminal organization.
But the case lacked strong physical evidence, and thus the FBI has largely had to depend on interrogations, informants, and sting operations to get information. The FBI has focused primarily on the Boston Mafia, which at the time was in the middle of an internal gang war. One theory is that gangster Bobby Donati, who had been murdered a year after the robbery, organized the heist to negotiate for his capo’s release from prison.
Some More Random Facts
Here’s a funny one: apparently, there was a snail that spent years glued to a card in the British Museum before someone realized that it was alive. Poor little guy!
Did you know that there is a Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia? Visitors can go and leave their personal objects left by former lovers, but they need to leave them with brief descriptions.
There’s an atomic bomb museum in New Mexico, the site where the first A-bomb was detonated. But there aren’t many opportunities to visit this museum as it is only open 12 hours each year.
Another funny one: There is a photo in the virtual museum of Canada dated from 1941 of a man in modern clothes. He was thought to be a time traveler and was given the name of “The time-traveling hipster.”
When the Mona Lisa Went Missing
There was another very famous museum heist that involved the Mona Lisa disappearing. Did you know that the portrait of the Renaissance noblewoman wasn’t the iconic image that came to be until she was all over newspaper covers in 1911? It was following the theft of her painting from the Louvre.
The thief who stole the painting was Vincenzo Peruggia, a handyman who worked at the museum. He hid in one of the closets overnight, then tucked the painting underneath his smock and tried to walk out. The door was locked, though, but he found a plumber who opened the door and let Peruggia through.
24 hours passed before anyone noticed that the Mona Lisa was missing. But keep in mind that there are over 400 galleries at the Louvre, so it’s not that crazy.
Once it was discovered that artwork by the Renaissance master Leonardo Da Vinci was gone, the theft naturally became international news. Stories about the missing painting were popping up around the world throughout the two years that it was missing. A police investigation was in full force, and at one time, Pablo Picasso was even considered a suspect!
Peruggia, the thief himself, was interviewed twice and then dismissed as a suspect. Then two years later, an art dealer in Florence, Italy, got a letter from someone wanting to sell the Mona Lisa. Can you guess who it was? Yes, it was Peruggia who, once he got caught, said he had stolen the painting so that it could be returned to Italy. Surprisingly, he only served 7 months in jail.
Renoir and Rembrandt Were Stolen in Stockholm
In 2000, thieves went into the National Museum in Stockholm, Sweden, and pointed guns and a sub-machine gun at the security guards. They went ahead and took a self-portrait by Rembrandt and two small paintings by Renoir. They escaped by speedboats that were parked in the canal next to the museum.
Two parked cars near the museum then burst into flames, which, similar to a scene out of a movie, were likely used as distractions set by the thieves. Even spikes were thrown on the ground to prevent a car pursuit. The value of the three paintings? $45 million.
The thing is that famous works of art are very hard to sell and the Museum’s director made a public statement that the museum didn’t have money for ransom, so there was little point in asking.
Getting the Paintings Back
One of the paintings was recovered soon after the heist by Stockholm police, but after that, the trail went cold for five years. Then, FBI agents investigating a Eurasian crime helped to find the other two paintings. One FBI agent posed as an art buyer in a Copenhagen hotel where the Renoir painting was being offered for half a million. And the last painting was found in Los Angeles, which is one of the few places in the world where a famous painting like that one might find a buyer.
It really makes you wonder why museum heists are even a thing. If the museum knows the paintings are missing, the word is out. So if someone suddenly tries to sell the exact same painting that’s been in the news – isn’t it all too obvious that it’s the stolen one? But anyways…
We all know the famous scream painting by Edvard Munch. Well, the iconic painting, along with a second by the same artist, who was the pride of Norway, was stolen at gunpoint by two thieves in ski masks while terrified visitors were watching. Just like how the National Museum in Stockholm did, the Munch Museum didn’t pay a ransom either as it was never able to or was willing to do so.
Then after two and a half years, a British policeman posed as an art buyer, caught the men, and arrested them for the crime. “The Scream” and the second painting were feared damaged, but they were mostly unscathed. There are only four versions of “The Scream” painted by Munch, and one of which was stolen in 1994 before the Oslo Olympics. Again, since a ransom was refused, the thieves couldn’t sell it, and the painting was eventually recovered.
Mexico City Heist
In 1985, one of the biggest museum heists took place in Mexico City at the National Museum of Anthropology when thieves stole as many as 140 priceless works of Mayan and Aztec art. The heist took place on Christmas Eve. The thieves easily opened seven glass display cases and grabbed tons of the museum’s most precious artifacts of pre-Columbian art.
Considering how the very best pieces were stolen, experts believed that the thieves must have known a lot about the collection and knew exactly which pieces they were wanted to target. They removed the wooden corners from the cases and the panes of glass. 9 guards were interrogated by police but were never charged with the crime. To date, only a small fraction of the artworks have been recovered.
Did You Know?
Here are some random facts about famous paintings in history. We’ll start with Pablo Picasso. When he was living in Nazi-occupied Paris in World War II, a German officer saw a painting of Guernica in his apartment. He asked Pablo Picasso, “Did you do that?” And Picasso responded with, “No, you did.” The painting was showing the effects of the German Bombardment on the Spanish Town of Guernica.
Did you know that actor Leonardo DiCaprio was named after another famous Leonardo? He was named Leonardo Da Vinci. As the story goes, before he was born, DiCaprio’s mother felt the baby kick for the first time while she was standing in front of a Leonardo DaVinci portrait at a gallery in Florence, Italy. According to Leo, his dad took this as a cosmic sign.
Have you noticed how the famous Mona Lisa has no visible eyebrows or eyelashes? In 2007, French engineer Pascal Cotte had a revelation. He announced that his ultra-high resolution scans of the iconic painting provide evidence that the Mona Lisa indeed was painted with eyelashes and with better visible eyebrows. It’s just that they had gradually disappeared over time, which perhaps was a result of over-cleaning.
For anyone going to Germany in the next while, you might be interested to know that some German cities have public “art libraries” where you can borrow artwork (paintings or little sculptures). They are mostly from local artists, and you can borrow them for 3 months, paying a fee of 5 euros for insurance.
No Smiles Allowed
For most of history, the act of smiling in a painting or photo was considered radical and simply something people didn’t do. Even Mark Twain once wrote, “A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.”
There was a painting bought by a priest for £400, which was revealed on the popular show Antiques Roadshow UK. The artwork turned out to be the work of the 17th Century master Sir Anthony Van Dyck, and it was estimated to be worth £400,000! The priest was visibly happy to hear the news. He now had the extra cash to buy some new church bells.
Only 15 of Them
It’s funny to think that despite being one of the most famous painters in all of history, only 15 pieces of Leonardo da Vinci are known to exist. Strange, huh? This is said to be due to Leonardo’s disastrous experimentation with new techniques, and he was also a chronic procrastinator.
Unfortunately, the Taliban had destroyed the ancient Buddha statues in 2001. Following the attack, a silver lining was discovered, so to speak. Archaeologists found a series of ancient caves with 1000-year-old paintings with various scenes from Buddhist mythology. The paintings are believed to be the oldest oil paintings in the world.
Then there’s what happened in Indonesia, after the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, when the atmospheric debris resulted in blood-red sunsets around the world for months. The painting “The Scream” is meant to be a depiction of a Krakatoa sunset over Oslo, Norway.
In 2007, a couple from Bristol had trouble selling their home due to graffiti on the side of the house. When they later found out that the mural was actually painted by massively famous graffiti artist Banksy, they decided to sell the graffiti along with the house. And guess what – they received twice the asking price!
Did you know that Franklin D. Roosevelt collapsed and died while sitting for a painting? That painting, by the way, still remains unfinished.
Fun fact: a chimp named Congo, who was a resident of the London Zoo in the 1950s, painted more than 400 paintings. If a zoologist tried to take away a painting before he felt it was finished, he flipped out, and if he considered a painting finished, he wouldn’t continue it.
A Curious Case in Germany
In 2010, an old man in Germany was investigated for having large sums of cash. Why? Because he was unemployed and with no obvious way of getting income. So, in September 2011, the prosecutor got a warrant to investigate his small apartment in Munich. In February 2012, when searching the apartment, they discovered over a thousand pieces of art, with an estimated value of nearly €50 million. The artworks were thought to be looted by the Nazis during World War II.
Another fun fact: John Lennon almost got beat up during a mid-1970s visit to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion. Why? Because he put out a cigarette. Where? On a priceless painting by French artist Matisse. Ouch. Not a good idea, John.
The Painting From the Flea Market
In 1989, a Philadelphia financial analyst purchased an old painting (which was a depiction of a country scene) for a measly $4 at a flea market in Adamstown, Pennsylvania. He bought it because he mostly just liked the frame. But he noticed a tear in the painting, and while investigating the tear in the canvas, the frame fell apart.
It led him to discover a folded document behind the canvas. The document appeared to be an old copy of the Declaration of Independence! It was stored between the canvas and the wood backing. He later learned that the document was indeed a rare original Dunlap broadside. It was actually one of 500 official copies from the first printing of the Declaration in 1776. He sold it for $2.4 million! Lucky guy.
The Nude Painting
La Maja Desnuda was the name of an oil on canvas painting by Spanish artist Francisco Goya. The painting portrayed a nude woman lying on a bed of pillows. Two sets of stamps were made with La Maja Desnuda on them in commemoration of Goya’s work. They were privately produced in 1930 and approved by the Spanish Postal Authority.
But that same year, the United States government saw letters being mailed with the stamp and weren’t having it. They banned them and returned any mail bearing the stamps. It was the first time that a stamp represented a naked woman. And for the conservative culture in America at the time, there was no way a naked lady on a stamp was going to be circulating the country. No, sir, no way!