Portfolio: New York photographer Matthew Albanese recreates planet landscapes with the contents of his kitchen cupboard


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The Independent Culture

In the beginning was paprika, and the paprika was spilt. As far as Creation goes, it was a clumsy one, but for Matthew Albanese, it was the start of an obsession that has so far lasted five years. "I'd spilt paprika in the kitchen," he says. "And as I was cleaning it up, I started playing with it and thinking about creating a landscape out of the material."

The New York photographer had been a fan of filmic special effects since childhood, and saw in the paprika mountain a way to recreate the mechanics of movie illusion in his own diorama. The result (after a couple of months of labour): "Paprika Mars".

To recreate a planet landscape takes more than a single canister of spilt spice, though. "As soon as I had the idea, I went out and bought 25lb more." To this, Albanese added chilli powder, cinnamon, charcoal and thyme to mould a food-based terrain that paid tribute to his love of sci-fi.

"Icebreaker" was two weeks in the making, including three days of cooking up sugar to varying temperatures to fashion differing degrees of hard crack and "icicles". The effect is remarkably realistic – though apparently not up close. "When people come into my studio, they say it looks like a pile of trash. Really the sets are only visible from one, very tight angle, and I make the foreground bigger and brighter to create depth. It's old-school movie magic." Lights, cameras, indeed…

Albanese's 'Strange Worlds' is published by Lazy Dog, priced €39