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Thomas AllenIíve always been fascinated by pop-up books, dioramas, 3-D glasses and the View Master for they all have the ability to picture false realities. To be believable, the angle for viewing these illusions must be correct, the distance from the subject should be such that it fills the viewerís entire field of vision and the lighting has to be right. For example, the feeling of standing next to a set of railroad tracks made from toothpicks while a construction-paper train (billowing cotton ball smoke) emerges from a paper mache tunnel will never be fully appreciated if oneís eye is not pressed firmly against the hole cut in the end of the shoebox!
I approach the picture-making process in the much the same way. My subjects are the characters found on the covers of vintage paperbacks whose range of emotions and expressions are altered with a few strokes of an X-acto knife. The act of cutting and folding transforms these flat figures into life-like, multi-dimensional, pop-up book characters. The view camera is the shoebox and the ground glass is the viewing hole. Each book is gently positioned according to what is projected through the lens. If necessary, pins are used to invisibly hold the pieces in place since the slightest movement, in any direction, would reveal (and ruin) the trick Lighting and composition are just as important. They set the (often times humorous) mood of the story being captured. A shallow focus completes the illusion and magnifies the sense of seeing in 3-D. The process can sometimes take hours to complete, but itís all part of why I choose to make photographs and well worth the effort.
Naming the work is the final step and I use single-word titles to play off the humor in a print while subtly suggesting a deeper meaning. If I have to resort to using long titles to explain whatís going in a photograph, then Iím doing something wrong.
Finally, Iíve been photographing books for quite a long time and Iím constantly thinking about how the work can evolve. My next series of images pictures multiple books. In fact, there is a stack of westerns sitting on the table next to me with cut-out cowboys itching to saddle up for a shoot out! The working title is Posse.