This could be a snapshot from a mid-century suburban town, taken by a proud new car owner who just came home from the dealership. Perhaps he dashed straight inside his house at number 239 to grab the camera and capture the moment he achieved the American dream …
You’re looking at the work of Michael Paul Smith who makes dream-like reconstructions of the town he grew up in. “It’s not an exact recreation, but it does capture the mood of my memories,” says Michael, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1950.
He has named his ongoing project, “Elgin Park“, an imaginary town (inspired by his boyhood memories of Pittsburgh) where time has stopped in the era of beautiful automobiles. To achieve a vintage look, he applies retro filters but Michael stresses that none of his pictures have been manipulated with Photoshop and they all come ‘straight from the camera’.
“It’s the oldest trick in the special effects book: line up a model with an appropriate background and shoot,” explains Mr. Smith. At 1/24th scale, however, the job is no walk in the park and can often take hours and hundreds of clicks of the camera before Michael finds the perfect perspective for his shot.
He photographs his sets against outdoor backdrops in and around where he lives today in Winchester, Massachusetts, and make use of various backgrounds, trees, houses, old/ abandoned/ architecturally dated buildings that remind him of where he grew up. When weather conditions prohibit him from using the outdoors, Michael places his sets inside and brings Elgin Park alive at night.
Mr. Smith makes his buildings and interiors from scratch from Gator board, styrene plastic and numerous found objects. And it’s probably safe to say that his previous lives as a wallpaper hanger, illustrator, painter, museum display designer, advertising art director, architectural model builder, amateur historian and photographer, have all come in handy in creating Elgin Park.
“Darrel Dink’s Mobile Home”
Browsing through his Flickr photo stream, you can also find some of Michael’s photo descriptions, written as if the places he has created in Elgin Park were once very real and very much a part of his childhood memories. A photograph he took of one of his sets in front of an abandoned building in Winchester becomes, “Research building parking lot, 1958″…
From another scene Michael set up one block from where he lives in Winchester, the finished photographed is watermarked like a postcard; “One of the many pleasant streets in Elgin Park.” Underneath, Smith adds a fictitious description to further bring the photograph’s story alive:
“This Post Card was donated to the Historical Society recently and the post mark on the back reads: August 1941. The street is not identified and there is still speculation as to where this photo was taken. It was suggested it might be Ruth Avenue, one of the older roads in town which has a number of colonial homes similar to the one that can be seen on the left hand side of the picture.”
The tiny reality of “Elgin Park”….
“View from a second story window”
“The Arrival of the Corvette Show cars”
“News Happens in Elgin Park, 1935″
“1950s Corvettes in near perfect condition uncovered in the Elgin Park Tucker’s dealership.”
You can tell Mr. Smith certainly has a soft spot for toy model cars from the 40s, 50s and 60s, which he began assembling from kits at the age of twelve.
So, what have we learned today? If you can’t build a time machine, build a miniature vintage world? Or I suppose you could just escape to Elgin Park.
It has all the amenities you could possibly need during your time traveling adventure…
A drive-in !
A laundromat …
Even sanitation services!
Discover Michael Paul Smith’s Elgin Park.
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