'This Is Art:' Accidentally Double-Exposed Photos Wow the Internet

In an era when we can take great photos simply by pressing a button on a smartphone, we often forget the astonishing effects that can be achieved with a traditional camera and a roll of film. But one photography enthusiast has wowed the internet with a series of accidentally incredible images.

On Monday, Zahra Ali—who uses the Twitter handle zedonarrival—shared four pictures from a recent trip to Berlin with the caption: "I accidentally double/triple exposed a roll of film I shot in Germany and the results made my jaw drop."

Ali, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, told Newsweek: "I took up film photography in the summer of 2020 during the height of quarantine. When everything was shut down, I spent a lot of free time taking long walks through Prospect Park and different neighborhoods of Brooklyn because that was the only available activity for a long time."

The photos, shot on 35mm film using a Pentax K1000 camera and a 50mm lens, show scenes of the German capital overlapping with each other within a single frame—and have generated more than 76,000 likes and thousands of retweets.

"When I returned from my trip to Germany, I dropped off four rolls of film to my local photo lab," said Ali. "When I received the digital scans back, one roll was normal, two rolls were empty, and one roll had multiple exposures. I realized then that I must have gotten mixed up and put a roll I already used back into the camera and ran it through again."

The 35mm format was first used in the early 20th century when British inventor and film-maker William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, an employee of Thomas Edison, cut 70mm film in half and spliced the ends together.

Exposed image 2
One of the accidentally double-exposed images of Berlin. The happy accident has been hailed as "art" by internet users. zedonarrival/Twitter

The first 35mm stills camera widely available to the public was the American Tourist Multiple, released in 1913. It cost $175 in 1913, the equivalent of about $5,000 today. By contrast, the Pentax K1000 used to take these images retails at just over $200.

"My favourite photo from the set is photo #3," said Ali. "The overlay of a man putting a keffiyeh on his dog, people milling around the square, and the church mosaic is charming and feels like a drifting story."

Twitter users were impressed by her work, with one commenting: "These are sort of like how I'd imagine memories in our brains. A beautiful mishmash of collected events, places, people."

Another posted: "I swear this is art. Honestly what a great result."

Exposed image 3
Another of the double-exposed images taken by a Twitter user on 35mm film. Some internet commenters have even asked if they can buy prints. zedonarrival/Twitter

Double-exposure images are often created intentionally by photographers, who expose film more than once to place multiple scenes within a single frame. Doing this often creates the ghostly effect seen in the Berlin images, adding objects that were not in the first frame or capturing movement.

One Twitter user was keen to know exactly how Ali created the images, writing: "Whatever you said you did, please can you drop a breakdown of it for us because I really want to have this kind of accident soon. Also, these are really amazing, you need to have more accidental art creations."

Other commenters shared their own multiple-exposure images, whether created by accident or intentionally. Some were so impressed by the Berlin images, they asked if they could purchase prints.

Ali said: "Since I started learning film photography, I've regularly shared photos on Twitter and Instagram to track my progress and get feedback from more seasoned photographers. This was the first time one of my photo sets have gone viral and it's been encouraging hearing how it made so many people think and feel."

In January, another "trippy" photo blew people's minds thanks to its warped perspective trick.

Overexposed images
A selection of the accidentally double-exposed images that have impressed the internet. zedonarrival/Twitter

Update 03/16/22 11:20 a.m. ET: This article was updated to add comments from the photographer.