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Michael Paul Smith's models

Filed under:  Design-Art-Photo
Comment(s): 5

What started out as an exercise in model building and photography, ended up as a dream-like reconstruction of the town Michael Paul Smith grew up in.

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November Snow 1954. A lot of baking soda was shaken over the set, then lit with one 60 watt bulb, that was just out of the frame. The glare from the bulb gave the appearance of falling snow being diffused by a street light. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

It's not an exact recreation, but it does capture the mood of his memories.

And like a dream, many of the buildings show up in different configurations throughout the photos. Or sometimes, the buildings stay put and the backgrounds change.

Visually, this is heading towards the realm of Art.


It's the oldest trick in the special effects book: line up a model with an appropriate background and shoot.

The buildings are 1/24th scale (or 1/2 inch equals a foot). They are constructed of Gator board, styrene plastic, Sintra (a light flexible plastic that can be carved, and painted) plus numerous found objects; such as jewelery pieces, finishing washers and printed material.

Below are just a few of Michael's creations. Not only does this showcase his varied talents, but it also highlights how patient he must be to able to produce such detailed masterpieces. Very well done.

You can check out all of his work

(text and image source: Michael Paul Smith)

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Night Time Bungalow Snow Scene. Keeping the camera low, or at "eye level" (if you were actually in the scene) helps maintain the illusion of scale. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

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Late night street scene. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

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Summer Storm Approaching. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

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Department of Sanitation. This garbage truck is constructed out of styrene sheets and tubing, using
plans Michael found in a book that followed the history of garbage trucks. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

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Post Card Image. 1/24th scale model buildings and vehicles. The telephone pole, stop sign, the white house and the tree is real and is about a block away from the models. The models themselves are sitting on a table. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

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Elgin Theater Main Street. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

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Bungalow with '41 Chevrolet. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

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Late afternoon Plymouth. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

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4th of July 1951. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

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1956 Lincoln. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

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Oldsmobile in Alliquippa Pa. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

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Photo setup. A quick visual description of the set up for the outside snow shoot. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

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January 1st photo shoot (with giant head). Giving away trade secrets. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

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Snowy street scene shoot. This picture gives a quick visual description of how it was set up. Similar to the J&L Steel Night Glow set, it was cobbled together using an 8 foot counter top surrounded by black foam core boards. You can see how the 3 boxes of baking soda were sifted over the entire scene to give the appearance of fallen snow.
It took about a half hour to cover everything in a realistic manner. Snow just doesn't fall straight down; it actually drifts, plies up and then blows around causing random patterns on the street and sidewalks. Only one light bulb, suspended over the model from a from a pole, was used to illuminate each photo. (source: © Michael Paul Smith)

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