The Pivot and the Model Pictures

For the past two years, 2018 and 2019, I was voted Member of the Year for a popular diecast model collectors forum, Model Hangar III. I make model photographs on a nightly basis and show the other people on the forum what I’ve completed.

Lorrie, who’s an English friend on Facebook, looked at one of my diorama photographs and said “It looks so real.” That is a nice compliment. Other times, hardcore scale modelers—not diecast model collectors—will pick out certain details and say the shot isn’t accurate, and the tank wouldn’t have fought that way, in that place.

Purist model makers also frown upon Photoshop effects and filters. “Why can’t you just show the diorama?” They ask. “Don’t manipulate the images like this.”

I agree that most diorama makers, other than myself, strive to make their scenes accurate and realistic. I enjoy looking at their work and what they can do.

My lot in life is different. I collect fine diecast models, which by nature are less accurate than what skilled modelers build and paint. I accept diecast models for what they are, and love the hobby of collecting them. I also love creating artistic pictures of my models in Photoshop, and other bits of software. The feeling stems from my experiences as a preteen when I started building models. The enjoyment from those days inspires the scenes and pictures I make today.

The pure fun from my 1976-78 days when my friend Tommy and I played with tanks and planes carries forward, and helps dilute my modern-day stress.

Here’s my philosophy on why I make my style of diorama pictures.

My goal is illusion. I’m not working towards realism. I am not trying to illustrate a particular event or probable occurrence.

If you like normal pictures, there are more on the internet than you could ever find the time to discover.

I want it to be seen that my subjects are models on sets, where the components are physically and then digitally integrated to create a believable place where that model exists. A place where, for a moment, the models and figures come alive.

I am creating the models’ place. Not what you have fixed in your mind as to what can and cannot be.

I am not depicting replicas of real things. I am showing you an actual real thing, which is the model itself.

Read that again, and then I’ll ask you: Can you alter your worldview, in the pivot I just provided? The “I am not depicting replicas of real things, I am showing you an actual real thing” thought is perhaps going to require that you, the viewer, change what you think about such diorama scenes.

Let’s set that aside for a moment, and talk about the process of transforming models into vibrant, or contrastingly stark, scenes. Models can take up an entire computer monitor eighteen inches wide, but in reality they’re so tiny, would you believe that three tanks could fit in the palm of your hand?

The main reason I use digital filters and effects is to knock down the sheen variations between the multi-media set pieces, and to give a scene a unified look. I also like to fill in corrective measures such as closing gaps between track and ground, adding backgrounds and skies, and removing seams, blemishes and flaws.

Making a picture artistic is important, because I want the scene to look pleasing.

With neither accuracy, history, nor realism being my goals, I’m free to let the models “come alive” and do what they could never do in typical static displays. For a moment, on your screen, the model and scenery are unified in a fantasy.

This is fantasy for sure, but within that realm, a real place is created. Yes, it begins on my kitchen table with tacky paste, miniature trees and bricks, but it doesn’t end with my final Photoshop click. For the picture to work, you have to look at it, and get involved with it. The picture is filled-in with your imagination.

It goes nowhere without you.

With my models and scenes, I am celebrating one thing: The immense joy I felt as a kid, playing with models and being with a friend.

Now, a few words to continue the pivot. Can you let an entrenched thought go, and consider a new idea? Come with me.

War is men fighting.
My photos are one man at peace.

War is suffering and death.
My photos are enjoying my life.

War is destruction.
My photos are construction.

War is heavy tanks.
My photos are light models.

War is the waste of youth.
My photos are the celebration of my youth.

War is nations pitted against each other.
My photos are me in daily chats with mates all over the world.

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About Ara Hagopian's The LITERATE Show

For over thirty years, I have enjoyed drawing beautiful shapes and writing complementary stories. The imagery tends to focus on our place in the world—whomever or whatever we may be. I am influenced by Twentieth Century history—I read vintage magazines, books and letters. Inspiration comes from visualizing human achievement and personal interaction—derived from people, places and things which may be obscure, but never insignificant. My pen-and-ink THE MAGNIFICENT RECOVERY was selected by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for their 2008 summer art auction.
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