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

 

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

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