Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Recycled materials and digital capture combine to create elaborate miniature narratives
The American Dream looks different through the eyes of Jeff and Sabrina Williams. When they go off on a trip and come across a scene that grabs their attention, they start drawing pictures rather than photographing them as they have intentionally replaced their cameras with a pencil and sketch pad. Odd, given that the Williamses are photographers, but completely logical after discovering how their American Dream comes together.
The Williams’ American Dream is a series of photographs in which they create highly detailed, elaborate narratives constructed with miniature sculptures made from mostly recycled and found materials, like cardboard, sticks and leaves. They paint the backgrounds on the wall of their studio and sculpt all of the objects in the scene by hand. The set then is lit with a variety of continuous light sources and photographed using a high-resolution, large-format Better Light Model 6K scanning-back camera, which is capable of producing large files full of rich detail.
They found that going on trips without the camera could allow them to experience their surroundings more directly and intensely, something they think gets lost nowadays because cameras have become so ubiquitous. At a birthday party, Jeff was without a camera for part of the time and couldn’t help but notice that the people with cameras were concentrating so hard on taking pictures that they couldn’t enjoy the party. So part of their motivation is to get beyond what a camera records and compose pictures that are derived from imagination.
“Nothing was around it, and there was a big television on inside,” Sabrina recalls. “The door was hanging off. There were beer cans all around. So we drove by it again, grabbed the sketchbook and started drawing. Neither of us is great at drawing, so it’s a lot of stick figures and making notes about what we saw.”
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