A World Like Our Own
Better Photography|April 2021
Conchita Fernandes steps into the carefully crafted world of Matthew Albanese’s sprawling landscapes and discovers what goes into making them so realistic.
Conchita Fernandes

Photography has always existed in a paradoxical continuum. It stands as a truthful record of a moment that has passed, but sometimes it is manipulated into making the viewer believe in the veracity of the recorded image.

At first glance, Matthew Albanese’s photographs appear to be scenes out of the real world, but on closer inquiry, you will realise that it is not all that it seems to be. It is the sliver of disbelief surrounding his sprawling scenes of nature that hints at its forgery because Matthew’s landscapes are meticulously constructed miniature sets made up of found objects that are transformed into opulent vistas.

The Moment Of Discovery

In 2008, a spilled canister of paprika piqued Matthew’s interest as it reminded him of the martian surface. “I was very interested in the colours and the textures, and I thought it could be used as something other than what it was originally intended for. What I imagined was a vast red landscape. Immediately, I went out to purchase twenty five pounds of the spice and created my first photograph, Paprika Mars. I then raided the spice cabinet for whatever I could find to create other types of environments,” he says.

Matthew’s love for concocting ethereal landscapes emerged from his childhood interest that involved watching special effects in films. “I was an avid watcher of Movie Magic and was always more interested in learning how the mind boggling movie miniatures were built and filmed to make the impossible, possible,” he says.

Dioramas require a certain level of proficiency as it is a combination of various disciplines—drawing, painting and sculpting, to name a few. Matthew, however, looks for materials that exhibit the characteristics, details and textures of the object he intends to create. “I do what I do because I am not at all proficient in painting, drawing, and sculpting. I manipulate materials until I can coax out and make apparent to the viewer the elements I see in my mind’s eye. For instance, I used faux crocodile skin to create the bark of a tree by painting it, gluing it, cutting it and staining it. I’ve also used cotton, cooked sugar, steel wool, different types of glass, textiles... the possibilities are endless. I’ll use absolutely anything!” he says.

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