Strange Miniature Worlds Made of Cotton, Sugar and Spice

Gazing at the portfolio of artist Matthew Albanese, you’re likely to marvel not just at his guts for getting so dangerously close to a tornado or erupting volcano, but luck for always seeming to be in the right place at the right time. But Albanese isn’t a storm chaser – the truth is even more interesting and impressive than that. These incredible landscapes are actually miniatures made from everyday materials.

Steel wool stands in for ominous clouds, salt for a waterfall blurred by motion, cotton for smoke and phosphorous ink for lava. Albanese even grew sugar crystals for a month to create the vaguely otherwordly look of an arctic landscape.

It all started when Albanese accidentally spilled a tub of paprika and began seeing the colors and textures of a landscape in the grains. That discovery led to “Paprika Mars”, which required 12 pounds of paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili powder and charcoal to create.

For the photograph to look convincing, Albanese must use a mix of scale, depth of field, lighting and white balance techniques. It takes hours to set up the backdrops and determine the exact angle from which to take the photo.

“My work involves the construction of small-scale meticulously detailed models using various materials and objects to create emotive landscapes,” Albanese writes on his website. “Every aspect from the construction to the lighting of the final model is painstakingly pre-planned using methods which force the viewers perspective when photographed from a specific angle.”