The iconic Eiffel Tower is one of the most photographed landmarks in the world, so it can be hard to find a new angle to shoot it from. But Parisians have emerged from lockdown to find it now looks very different – if you’re standing on the right spot. A stunning optical illusion from French photographer and street artist JR makes the tower appear to be perched precariously over a rocky chasm with a city below it.

The artist has laid a black-and-white photomontage of a ravine and the pillars at the base of the tower over the floor of the Place du Trocadéro, the esplanade that overlooks the landmark. It makes for an impressive piece of urban art (see our favourite street art and these top optical illusions here).

If an onlooker stands in the right spot near the Palais de Chaillot, the photomontage lines up with the tower, creating the illusion that the ground has fallen away (for another type of illusion, see our favourite deepfake examples).

JR unveiled the trompe l’œil just as Paris eased restrictions after months of lockdown, and it’s proved a hit. People have been queuing up to take pictures of each other jumping over the apparent chasm.

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Comments on Twitter range from “breathtaking to “magnifique”, although some have commented that it isn’t easy to get a shot of the illusion. @OLR75 tweeted: “You have to place yourself on a very precise point to have this effect. Very difficult when there are so many people who want to take the same photo.” Others have read political allegories in the piece. “The social divide in our beautiful country,” @PermaFan33 tweeted.

JR specialises in creating large format street art. In Paris, he’s previously created two optical illusions using the Louvre museum, making it look like its pyramid had disappeared in 2016, and opening a chasm across its courtyard in 2019. In March, he opened a wound on the side of the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. 

Other work has included an installation that appears to show a baby peering over the US-Mexico border wall, and an image of prisoners staring up from under the prison yard at Tehachapi maximum security prison in California.

The Eiffel Tower installation is due to remain in place until June 17. London’s Saatchi Gallery will host JR: Chronicles, a major exhibition of JR’s work from June 4 to October 3.

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