Photographer Slinkachu is based in the UK and has worked on photography and street installations for a while now.The images that he produces are rather whimsical–but not in the surreal, ultra-photoshopped way. Instead, Slinkachu uses figurines to create the scenes that he comes up with. He tells us that he sketches out concepts in notebooks and his images have a melancholy edge. But in these images in particular, he was going for a sense of nostalgia.
And indeed, he nails it.
Phoblographer: How did you get into photography?
Slinkachu: I took a few photography courses at art college in the late 1990s, but I never had the patience for analogue photography and messing about in a darkroom. I went on to become an art director for an advertising agency and so worked with many photographers, but didn’t do any photography myself. When I started making and leaving miniatures around London in 2006 I took a few snaps to record the scenes I was creating. The project was just a hobby at first, something creative to blow off steam from my more commercial day job, and I was just using a simple point and shoot digital camera. The more installations I made and the more images I took, the more I became interested in the ways I could construct stories with the camera and the figures. I basically taught myself how to use a DSLR to take better photos and to better put across what I wanted to portray to an audience in my installations. The photography became important to record the work that I was leaving on the street. At the moment I am using the Canon 5D Mk II.
Phoblographer: What inspired you to create this series?
Slinkachu: For this series in particular I was interested in exploring how we interact with nature in urban areas. In our cities, the natural world is very controlled and contained, whether that is in landscaped parks or the weeds in the street that the local council has to spray with killer. I wanted to see if I could find and mess around with the little pockets of nature, such as weeds and moss, that you can find in London. I tried to create miniature, hidden landscapes that looked beautiful up close and it is when you pull back you realise the reality of the installations and their surroundings. I took inspiration (or tropes and cliches) from lots of thing, such as landscape paintings of the past, baroque painting such as Fragonard’s The Swing and imagery from films such as The Sound of Music.
Phoblographer: Each photo is its own unique scene that you’d probably see in a real city, but how did you go about conceptualizing the scenes? Was there storyboarding involved?
Slinkachu: I keep a lot of notebooks in which I plan my installations and in some respects the rough sketches do look like story boards. Thats probably partly due to my background in advertising and also my love of film. I have a lot of ‘making-of’ film art books on my shelves! I do think of my installations as film sets in a way and I tend to shoot a few hundred shots of each set-up with tiny changes to depth of field, crop and angle as well as in different lighting conditions if the weather at the time of my shooting is changeable. I only use natural light so I pay careful attention to the time of the day that I shoot too. The locations that I use are often fairly spontaneous – I’ll find them on the day itself, just by scouting a particular area of a city for a few hours – but the installations themselves are carefully planned beforehand.
Phoblographer: Why did you choose to work with miniatures inside of real people?
Slinkachu: Smaller, cheaper and they don’t complain whatever you do to them! Joking aside though, I love the symbolism of using miniatures. I leave all the figures in place on the street after I shoot them, but only a few people will ever spot them. Most will get destroyed or lost.
Phoblographer: Where do you want the series to go?
Slinkachu: I think my next project will be the reverse of my present one. Instead of exploring the idea of nature in a city, I want to look at the manmade structures around us.
Phoblographer: The series so far features very ordinary people, but have you ever thought of incorporating animals, monsters or even something like cars into it?
Slinkachu: I try to keep my scenes rooted in reality. On the surface they can often seem fantastical but the experiences of the miniature figures are really analogies for our own experiences. I have used lots of different miniature things though, such as flies and cockroaches. Those are the monsters in some cases.
Phoblographer: Every artist creates things out of some sort of self-expression. What are you trying to say with this series?
Slinkachu: A lot of my work has, under the surface, quite a melancholy edge. I’ve often presented the city as a dangerous, scary or lonely place. Like us life-sized people, the miniature figures in my images find living in the city a chore sometimes, they feel lost and alone.
The environment is the antagonist. In this particular series though, I wanted to add a sense of nostalgia to the scenes; to explore how we look back with rose-tinted glasses at the past, when ‘it was all just fields’ and the kids could play outside all day without anyone having to worry about any impending dangers. In a way, I was trying to remove the viewer from the city.
Phoblographer: How do you feel this made you grow as a photographer and artist?
Slinkachu: I made a conscious effort to shoot these images at the right time of year and in the right weather and lighting conditions. This involved a lot more planning (and waiting) that I am usually used to. In one series of images, for instance, I returned to the same location in London three times at different times of the year to reflect the changes in the seasons. I made the figures months ahead and waited until the conditions were right, racing out early one morning to catch the heavy frost on the ground before it melted. That whole experience really made me a lot more aware of the changes that happen in a city over a year, which i thought was a nice take-away for me considering the subject matter of the Miniaturesque series.