A Town that Never Was
Experience the life and times of Elgin Park, as documented by its mayor and only resident, Michael Paul Smith.
- Description: To recreate the memories of my childhood and hometown.
- Duration: The project has been going on for the last ten years and will continue for a long time ahead.
- Notes: I was once asked by a famous French photographer about the lenses I use. When I told him I only use a compact camera, he just said two words, “You lie!”
Welcome to Elgin Park—a town that has been forever frozen in the mid-20th century. With quaint little shops and vintage cars dotting its various streets, this little town is a trip down nostalgia lane. Would you like to visit it? Sorry, don’t bother looking up Elgin Park on a map… because this place does not exist!
When I get inspired to make a photograph, it usually comes out of the blue. An image, a song or a random thought will trigger the creative urge. I then start looking at the model cars and trucks I have.
What era will best illustrate the scene? What time of day or season? And most importantly, what story do I want to tell? Then, my childhood memories come into play. Elgin Park does not exist, yet here is a visual treasure chest of emotions and memories—a distillation of what has already passed.
The first thing I do is construct the scale buildings to showcase the miniature car collection I have. This can take a lot of time, as the attention to detail must be meticulous.
When photographing outdoors, I let the light direct me. I work with minimal equipment, and I don’t want to be burdened with reflectors and flash units.
What is most important is perspective. You have to frame your image in a way that gives a semblance of scale. If you feel something is not looking right, perfect it and only then shoot.
What makes Elgin Park work is that many people from my generation relate to the warm, cozy feeling of childhood that it evokes. For others, it is a study of a town that just never was.
The only gear I use is my Canon PowerShot SX280 HS camera. I find it easier to use than a DSLR, as the depth of field of a compact camera is greater, and works better for photographing scale models. Rather than the equipment, what is more important for me is to see that everything in my image looks good and in place.
Things to Keep in Mind When Photographing Miniatures
- Keep Everything in Scale: Have the camera at the same height of a person who might be part of the scene. For example, assuming a three-inch tall person would be part of the scene, keep your camera three inches off the ground.
- Play with Weather: You can create your own weather conditions. For example, snow can easily be created using talcum powder and salt.
- Be Steady: Use a good quality tripod to make sure the frame is balanced.
To view more images from Elgin Park, you can visit www.flickr.com/photos/24796741@N05
This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Better Photography.Tags: On Assignment, Perspective, inspiration, memories, construction, details, town, may 2014, miniatures, Michael Paul Smith, Elgin Park, Childhood, Scale Models