It's all an illusion. The ash-covered landscapes, the crashing waves of a turbulent sea, the smoky, toxic air — it's all make-believe. Forge is a series of works from British artist Luke Evans that turns the ordinary into the unforgettable.
Using a mixture of common materials, Evans crafts intricate landscapes in miniature on his kitchen table. The image above takes self-raising flour, paint, fragments of brick, and heated glycerine (a simple $1 throat medicine), and arranges them into an otherworldly scene. The objects pictured measure just a few inches across, so to achieve the grand sense of scale Evans flipped a popular photographic technique on its head.
Tilt-shift photography has been around for a long time, but it's not often used like this. While regular lenses are always placed directly in front of a sensor at 90 degrees, tilt-shift lenses can either tilt or slide away from the sensor, granting a photographer control over the focal plane in a way that's impossible with other lenses. The most-common use for this technique is to make large objects look small. Tilt-shifting a cityscape can make the objects in focus appear more like a model village than real life. With the rise of Instagram, users have been able to replicate this effect to some extent by controlling exactly what's in focus.
For Forge, Evans connected one of the lenses to a Phase One IQ180 medium format camera, but instead of restricting the focal plane to just one object or area, he used the lens to get almost the entirety of each scene in focus. To complete the illusion, he then used a single light source with no reflectors to mimic sunlight, and created "fog" by heating glycerine in a frying pan and waving it over the scene. It's this innovative use of the tilt-shift lens, coupled with lighting and a clever use of perspective, that makes these tiny piles of brick and flour seem like full-sized landscapes.
The idea for Forge literally came by accident. "I was breaking bread one day and I knocked flour all over the worktop," Evans tells The Verge, "it looked like some strange martian landscape; I took some quick photos and the idea was born." The artist decided to experiment with the idea of creating miniature landscapes, but as he was on a tight budget (Evans is a full-time student), he had to limit himself to random materials he could find in his house.
Each image presented its own challenge, but none was more challenging than the "sea spray" image below. "I had to wave fog over the set, fling salt at the rock, and press the shutter all in succession to get the final image. It took weeks to get it just right." For Evans, his meticulous work has paid off. Although he's yet to complete his final year of a Design and Photography degree at Kingston University, Forge has been selected for an upcoming exhibition at London's world-renowned Saatchi Gallery.