Welcome back to our column showcasing the art and artists we love. This time around we talked with miniaturist Duane Perera.
25YL: How did you get started creating these miniature scenes?
DP: Originally, I was into travel photography, and I’d often browse Youtube videos to learn about photo-editing techniques. One day I randomly stumbled upon a video of someone taking amazing photos of model cars. From there, I did a bit more digging, and I discovered the world of action figure photography. I was instantly hooked! I found a community of toy photographers on Instagram, and figured I would give it a shot myself. I immediately picked up some craft supplies from the dollar store and tried building my first scene.
25YL: What inspires your scenes?
DP: I get most of my inspiration from everyday life situations. If I experience something interesting during the day, I’ll ask myself “Would this make a good toy photo?” I also enjoy tapping into my childhood memories for inspiration.
25YL: Are all of the figures you photograph yours? And how many of those figurines are original 80s/90s toys and how many are modern? Or custom jobs? (Like…are there really Tupac and Biggie figurines?! Or did you have to make that yourself?)
DP: I own most of the figures that I use in my photography, but when I first started, I did borrow a few toys from friends of mine. I prefer using modern figures, as opposed to vintage ones, because the newer toys have much more detail and poseability. Some are custom figures too – I often buy the heads individually and then attach them to generic doll bodies.
25YL: I can’t imagine that this is a cheap or easy endeavour to undertake! How long does it take to create each scene and how hard is it is source the material you use to craft each scene? It looks like a full-time job!
DP: The length of time required to build a scene varies quite a bit. If I’m doing a simple shot with pre-made props, I can finish it in a couple of hours. However, if I’m doing an intricate scene that requires me to build a lot of new props, it could take a couple days. I get my materials from various sources – dollar stores, thrift stores and craft/fabric stores are the places I visit most often.
25YL: What is the most challenging part about creating a scene?
DP: It depends on the scene. Sometimes the hardest part is getting the lighting to look the way I want it to, other times it may be building the props, or getting the figures to stay posed without falling down.
25YL: Talk to me about your relationship to pop culture? Were you always a fan of pop culture stuff or is this a more recent interest?
DP: I’ve been into pop culture as long as I can remember – since I was a kid I’ve been in tune with a lot of the mainstream television shows, music and video games.
25YL: Nostalgia is playing an increasingly large role in the lives of millennials as we pine for simpler days and use pop culture as an escape from real life. I’m wondering how you feel work like yours fits into this niche? What kind of feedback do you get from fans?
DP: Toy photography gives me a way to re-live my childhood; each time I create a new scene, it takes me back to the 80’s/90s and makes me feel like a kid again. I regularly get comments from people saying that they experienced similar things in their childhood. I love evoking those kinds of nostalgic feelings through my work.
25YL: Are most of your fans young people? Collectors?
DP: I think most of my followers fall into the 25-35 age range, because of the nostalgic nature of my photos. Some are toy collectors, some are photographers, and some are just fans of superheroes, video games or pop culture.
25YL: What is your favourite scene to create? The most difficult scene?
DP: It’s very difficult for me to pick a favourite scene! I really enjoyed doing the Stormtrooper Duck Hunt photo, since it was one of my first experiments with polymer clay (I moulded the NES zapper gun). I also enjoyed the Mario Basketball shot, and the Ninja Turtles Shots are always fun to do. The most difficult shots are the ones that require me to create a lot of props and backdrops. I’ve done a few photos where I’ve needed to make dozens of miniature boxes, and those took a long time to do.
25YL: Have you ever received any feedback from an actual person you’ve managed to miniaturize?
DP: Yes, it has happened a few times – most recently, WWE wrestlers Chris Jericho and Edge re-posted a photo of mine on Instagram and mentioned how much they liked it. That totally made my day!
25YL: What are some upcoming scenes that you’re working on?
DP: I’ve got a lot of ideas planned for the next few months. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll definitely be doing many more nostalgic scenes focusing on food, video games and television shows from back in the day.
25YL: Where can people find you and your work online?
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Lindsay Stamhuis is a writer and English teacher who also moonlights as 25YL Site's Executive Editor and Style Manager. In addition to editing and writing about TV and Film, she is the co-host of Bickering Peaks, a Twin Peaks podcast. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband Aidan, their three cats, and a potted pothos that refuses to grow more than one vine.