The Whimsical World Inches Above the Earth

The Photo Blog
Nov. 21 2013 11:03 AM

The Whimsical World Inches Above the Earth

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Michael R. Reese

Your shin lives in a pretty cool world.

Photographer Michael Reese has spent a year getting to know that world. He creates a humorous and fantastical series of images he titled “Inches Above Earth” that incorporates aviation into a world less than a foot off the ground.

Reese began the project when Atlanta Celebrates Photography placed a call for work that explored a sense of place in a nontraditional sense. Fascinated with aviation since he was a child, Reese decided to pursue an imaginary world seen through a childlike imagination.  

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Creating the images, however, is anything but childlike. Reese uses aircraft that are no longer than 4 inches and a couple of inches in height and width. He scouts locations that are visually engaging and in direct contrast to where an aircraft might take off or land. “Much of the shooting I am on the ground, hunched over with light modifiers, off and on camera flash and tripods,” Reese said.

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Michael R. Reese

Many of the toys are shot using a wire suspension system that hangs from traditional and compact tripods. Reese then removes any signs of his magic in post-production. He takes a lot of shots, noting that because the toys are quite light, “I am at the mercy of the elements.”

When he began the series, Reese said he initially had the aircraft appear to be floating in the image without a sense of purpose, so he studied the ways in which airplanes would bank or how they looked when they land. “It didn’t look realistic enough to me, so I began to explore different angles and also study real aircraft from the vantage point of the ground,” he said. “I then set out to photograph the toys in a way that translated that they were really flying. It was also important to photograph them in a way that did not show that they were about to crash or defy simple laws of physics as it relates to flight.”

Even with all the technical components to the images, Reese sees the project as a humorous one. “It’s like when you watch a magician perform a good trick—you are duped, and you are enjoying the fact that you are because it is fun to not know sometimes. This is how we were as kids—the whimsical and the humorous were never that far away.”

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Since he began working on “Inches Above Earth,” Reese said he finds himself looking down more often and has “noticed an inordinate amount of trash in that space; I don’t know if there’s more trash than before, but it’s just now I notice it more.”

As he continues with the project, Reese plans on having the aircraft interact further with people, and he also plans to start shooting a foot or two above the Earth. He said he hopes the work helps people understand that we are “not just simply walking on ground, but on Earth. … I think of [the series] as having a cosmic versus local perspective … I also think it’s about seeing what the mundane can reveal if we simply took the time to pause and examine once in a while.”

An image from “Inches Above Earth” will be on display at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport for the next year as part of the show “Time and Place,” curated by Amy Miller of Atlanta Celebrates Photography.

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