Seattle-based photographer Derrick Lin (previously) constructs miniature worlds that serve as a direct contrast to the stacks of books and other office staples like paperclips and pencils they’re surrounded by. Often showing life’s more relaxing and sublime moments, each scene is complete with tiny figures and their possessions as they pass along a sidewalk lined with cherry blossom trees, occupy a packed airport terminal, and sit on the floor of a messy living room. Because Lin assembles his little scenarios on his tabletop, some of his shots even feature a coffee mug in the background.
The photographer tells Colossal that in recent years, he’s started to consider the more subtle emotions of his daily reality “as a single working professional living in a major city.”
In addition to humor and whimsy, I started to pay more attention to topics around loneliness, mental health, and kindness. I strive to depict and spotlight on the kind of thoughts we typically reserve for ourselves. My photography loosely reflects what I personally experience and what I see around me. What continues to amaze me is the messages I receive from my followers about how my little project resonates with them and brings them joy and calmness.
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Connecticut-based Syrian-born artist Mohamad Hafez (previously) uses found objects, paint, and scrap metal to create architectural dioramas of Middle Eastern urban environments. The photorealistic miniatures are packed with detail and speak to the political and social issues plaguing the artist’s war-torn homeland.
An architect by trade, Hafez imagines and builds cross-sections of streets and structures covered in grime and graffiti. Situated within suitcases and picture frames, the wall-mounted pieces are meant to be viewed and considered up close. Exposed rusty pipes, rubble, and weathered doorways of the crumbling nation are contrasted by hopeful verses from the Quran. The streetscapes, according to statement on the artist’s website, combine Hafez’s interests in street art and activism. While feeling helpless to bring about meaningful changes in Syria, his intention with the dioramas is to “expose the Middle East’s conflicts to the world in a modest, artistic approach to appeal to a wider contemporary audience.”
Harold J. Miossi Art Gallery at Cuesta College is currently hosting a Retrospective exhibition of Hafez’s work through December 20, 2019. His miniatures can also be seen at The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago as their first “interpreter-in-residence.” To dive deeper into Hafez’s miniature worlds, follow the artist on Instagram.
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Potato Chip Sand Dunes, Spiral-Bound Swimming Lanes, and More Miniature Transformations from Tatsuya Tanaka
Another year, another 365 days of miniature glory from Tatsuya Tanaka (previously). On a daily basis for the past seven years, the prolific Japanese miniature artist has shared unique images of imagined scenes created using the simple combination of everyday objects, tiny model humans, and his boundless imagination. (For anyone keeping track, that’d be over 2,500 dioramas.) Crinkle-cut potato chips become desert sand dunes, spiral-bound notebooks delineate swimmers poised to compete, and books filled with sticky notes create an urban skyscraper scene. Tanaka periodically releases books, calendars, and post card collections of his favorite photographs, which he lists on his website. You can also join over a million Tanaka fans on Instagram and Facebook, or if you’re in Japan, check out his show in Nagoya through November 25, 2018.
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Syrian-born, New Haven, Connecticut-based artist and architect Mohamad Hafez compiles found objects and scrap metal to construct miniature recreations of homes, buildings, and landscapes left by refugees in the Middle East and around the world. The dioramas for his series, UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage, are built into suitcases to pay tribute to the difficult journeys forced by the ravages of war. Miniature cars, tiny living room sets, and even fake plants adorn the open luggage—installations which each take Hafez several months to complete.
The detailed works are paired with audio recordings from refugees from Afghanistan, Congo, Syria, Iraq, and Sudan. The stories are recorded by Admed Badr, an Iraqi refugee and Wesleyan University student, and illuminate the struggles faced by those who have had to leave their homes. You can listen to the recordings on Hafez and Badr’s website for the project, and see more of Hafez’s suitcase dioramas on his Instagram. You can also see the work in person at DePauw University‘s group show “Baggage Claim,” on view until December 9, 2018.
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Creative duo Aleia Murawski and Sam Copeland build elaborate miniature sets occupied by small, slimy actors. The environments are laced with suburban nostalgia, which feature perfectly manicured lawns, plastic-coated furniture, and messy teen bedrooms littered with snack wrappers and tiny video game consoles.
The pair’s collaborative worlds are used for still images and short films. Murawski’s favorite part of shooting with snails is seeing how they interact with their sets, while also learning how to specifically direct the slow moving creatures, she explains on her Instagram. One way she and Copeland inspire certain movements while filming is by positioning cucumbers behind the sets’ tiny objects, which encourages their subjects to inch towards the hidden vegetables. The duo used this technique in their recent music video project for Bully, in which they built out an entire neighborhood and house set to outline a day-in-the-life of an extra sluggish snail.
For more slime-centered work, including this video of a motorcycle-riding snail, visit Murawski’s Instagram. You can purchase posters of the collaborative photographs on Big Cartel. (via It’s Nice That)
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Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber (previously) collaboratively produce detailed dioramas caught in the throes of natural or manmade chaos. From 2005 to 2015 the pair created a series titled The City, which imagined the post-apocalyptic interiors of abandoned violin shops, malls, and natural history museums. Empire, a follow-up suite of miniature scenes, serves as a companion to this series by looking at the same imagined future from an exterior point of view.
Nix and Gerber’s new scenes move away from a focus on water-damaged and rusty interiors to explore broad outdoor environments recently devoid of civilization. Scaffolding and bridges crumble as plants begin to poke back through cement cracks, subtle hints that nature has begun to reclaim its land.
“Empire presents a world transformed by climate uncertainty and a shifting social order as it stumbles towards a new kind of frontier,” the pair explain in a statement. “These places are eerily beautiful but also unsettling in their stillness and silence. Long ago, man entered the landscape and forced nature to his will. Once grand and emblematic of strength and prosperity, these landscapes now appear abused and in decay, and it is uncertain how they will continue to (d)evolve.”
Each labor intensive model can take up to 7 months to produce, which often means that Nix and Gerber will only finish two photographs a year. The handcrafted dioramas are built from cardboard, foam, and glue—impermanent supplies which are deconstructed and recycled after each shoot.
“I am afraid of what the future holds if we do not change our ways regarding the climate, but I am also fascinated by what a changing world can bring,” Nix told Colossal. “I think this is part of why we make the work we do, to try to reconcile these different attitudes.”
The pair will exhibit images from Empire at their upcoming show at Chicago-based Catherine Edelman Gallery from March 2 to April 28. You can see more of their miniature scenes from both The City and Empire on their Instagram and Facebook.
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Editor's Picks: Art
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