Alma Haser’s “Cosmic Surgery” Pop-Up Book

The photo-based artist's altered portrait series comes to 3D book form, origami included

German born, UK-based artist Alma Haser’s popular, mind-bending project “Cosmic Surgery” consists of portraits that have been enhanced—and made considerably stranger—by the addition of origami shapes. Haser initially made the origami masks to use for self-portraits, attaching them to her face with elastic bands, but realized that the process of placing them on already-printed portraits and re-photographing them was a more comfortable way to get the same effect.

The resulting series, which came out a couple of years ago, is thoroughly fascinating. The origami gives the portraits an almost alien feel, and the addition of multiple sets of eyes means that people start looking vaguely arachnid. And yet the pictures are beautiful and thought provoking, something that the name “Cosmic Surgery” underlines—even though the title was unintentional,” Haser tells CH. “The name ‘Cosmic Surgery’ came about after I spent an evening with my family, discussing cosmetic surgery. Being very dyslexic I was mistaking the words and kept saying cosmic surgery. The name just stuck and seemed a perfect fit for the series.”

Now, Haser is taking the natural next step for “Cosmic Surgery” by releasing a pop-up book. “I have always loved pop-up books, and always loved making things, so I thought it might be fun to create my own. I also liked the idea of making the ‘Cosmic Surgery’ series back into 3D again. I thought it was a shame that the viewer only got to see the images as flattened origami structures,” she says.

The “Cosmic Surgery” book contains multiple pop-up constructions and paper mechanics, and was made with Emily Macauley from Stanley James Press, who designed and put together all the books. The hand bound title is like a paper treasure box of thrilling designs, with different geometric shapes reaching out for the viewer from its pages. Haser explains: “I wanted to make a book that people can interact with, and take out when their friends come round. This book seems to make people stand back and want to revisit pages and see them again, which is exactly what I was after.”

Since “Cosmic Surgery” was released, Haser has continued to make striking photography series, most recently “The Eureka Effect,” which uses flowers and foliage images to create portrait collages that “represent the growth of an idea, the moment we all have that Eureka moment. After gaining an insight into her world, you get the feeling that Haser’s own Eureka moments are well worth waiting for.

Pre-order a copy of “Cosmic Surgery” online. Each book is made in an edition of 10.

Images courtesy of Alma Haser and Stanley James Press