Can You Spot the Snipers Hidden in These Photos?


Simon Menner’s ongoing series Camouflage shows landscapes with German snipers hidden somewhere in the frame. The project is like a deadly Where’s Waldo exercise. For Menner, the challenge of finding the snipers isn’t the important part; the photos comment on the way things like fear, terror, and surveillance are constantly part of our lives in the modern world.

“I’m playing with this notion that you always have to be afraid of something that is not visible,” says Menner, who lives in Berlin.  

Whether it’s terrorists about to strike the Olympics, or the NSA tapping our phones, he says the main threats these days are out of sight, just like the snipers. He acknowledges there’s a big difference between men with guns and the NSA, but decided to shoot the project this way nonetheless because he wanted a clear visual theme that illustrated these abstract and visually complicated ideas.

“I really like this idea of going to extremes,” says Menner. “I like to have these absolute points and then you can always go back to something that is not extreme and see the relationship.”

He started shooting back in 2010 and actually had a fairly easy time contacting the German army. He wrote a letter to the German Defense Secretary explaining his request and soon after was contacted by several high-ranking army officials who helped him arrange the shoot.

“I didn’t expect much, but [the army] was very open to it,” he says. “I think part of the reason it was so easy was because there is a general lack of interest in society about the army, so they were very happy. They actually offered to have me go to Afghanistan as well.”

The first shoot happened in Northern Germany near the Baltic Sea with a group of newly trained snipers. He later traveled with a group of veteran snipers, just back from the war in Afghanistan, to a location in the Alps.

Because the project is so conceptual, Menner said he has no problem posing the photos. The soldiers are in their real garb and blend in well, but they’re much closer than they would be in real life. Often times, he says, they were just 10 to 15 meters away, when normally they would set up half a mile from their target.

In a couple photos, if you look closely enough, you can see small sings that give the sniper away, like a gun barrel. In others it’s impossible to tell anyone is out there. Menner says when he prints the photos he makes them huge. But even then most of the photos never betray the sniper’s location.

He’s paid close attention to people’s reactions and his favorite is when people tell themselves they can see the sniper, even when he suspects they’re just imagining it, or going along so they don’t look foolish. Kind of like the people who couldn’t figure out Magic Eye illusions.

“Many people are very convinced,” he says.

Menner never seriously considered faking the photos, but he likes the fact that his work is so hard to wade through that it does seem fake. He thinks that if he’d faked the shots, they probably would have been more obvious.

“I’m guessing they would look more like a hidden sniper because I would have over-faked it,” he says.

From here, Menner wants to take the project to Israel. He wants to shoot snipers in the desert, which changes the scenery. But the Israeli army is also known for a high level of secrecy, which adds to the allure. The only problem is that he’s had a very hard time tracking down a contact.

“I couldn’t find any emails, so I actually had to send them a letter,” he says.

Sniper above the brownish rotten wood. Slightly to the right. Spotter behind him to the left.

Sniper on top of the two big boulders in the lower right corner. Muzzle is visible.

Sniper slightly left of the center of the image in the grass.

There is a big boulder in the lower left corner. Sniper is straight up from there, where the color of the stones changes from light to dark

Sniper behind the sapling in the left center of the image

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