Photographing a Destroyed Home Diorama Using Dollhouse Supplies


For the photo above, titled “Dead Little Things,” I wanted to create a scene out of strictly dollhouse supplies. Inspired by many of the weather events that have occurred in recent years: tornados in Joplin and Oklahoma City, Hurricane Sandy and even Katrina.

I was struck by the indelible photos of homes destroyed in various ways that almost make them look fake, a physical upending of one’s life as defined by materialistic possessions.

I chose to create a world of darker imagery that stands in stark contrast with the warm and inviting light that infuses the wreckage. I noticed that in the actual photographs of similar images my eye naturally scanned through the detritus to find poignant signs of humanity like the grail at the left foreground, the red stool at the top of the heap and the cinderblocks which show how deep the destruction went in some areas while other areas are eerily untouched (standing lamp in house).







I constructed the house in layers in order to create a realistic feel when it was “deconstructed”. The diorama itself is very shallow (about 4 feet deep and six feet wide). The lighting was the tricky part.



I wanted to create a very specific quality of light, late afternoon very warm beautiful and inviting. To do this, I used a video projector with colored gels and varying patterns of shadow and light areas. I then made several exposures or “passes” much like the old school film makers would capture the differing elements of their miniatures.

The sky was so large I had to build it at a separate location and then composite it in, the hardest part was shooting the two elements separately so that they line up perfectly. In total it took 7 months to create, three weeks of which was spent just getting the photography right.




About the author: Matthew Albanese is a photographer working out of New Jersey and New York City. He’s best known for his Strange Worlds project, a series of photos showing highly detailed miniatures created using simple materials. Visit his website here.

  • Sid Ceaser

    I love, Love, LOVE small model photography like this. If y’all haven’t seen the work of Lori Nix yet, please do – she’s one of the best at this genre of photography.

    Bravo, Matthew! Keep up the good work!

  • Marco Ceschi

    Amazing !

  • superduckz

    It is remarkable but if I have to ask “why?” does that make me a simple minded buffoon?

  • DesertandSeas

    They’re both too cool. Ms Nix and Mr. Albanese have a vision and I like how they go about sharing it with us. Thanks for posting!

  • Alex Minkin

    I don’t think it’s a ‘why’ thing. It’s an incredible model, a ridiculous amount of work, and while it’s interesting from a photography perspective, because the whole thing is lit very well and most importantly MATCHES, this is really a better post for a model/set building site.

    There have been a lot of posts on petapixel related to model building and then photographing them. I’ve done it a handful of times myself, it’s fun, and it gives you access to otherwise impractical things. but for this guy, I’d shoot this post over to a videography site that uses scale models for filming, and it would be phenomenal.

  • Bj√∂rn Lubetzki

    Because he can!

  • stevengrosas


  • Don Tusk

    The attention to detail is insane !

  • Becca Gulliver

    I absolutely applaud photographers who put this much effort and attention to detail in their work.