The Model World

Boats, opposite Oslo harbour

Figurines, Central Park

A teeny canal in model Amsterdam

View from the hills in Catalonia

Wee Scottish parliament, Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags

I have been seeing the world in miniature, playing around with a new online tool to make everything macro and real seem micro and constructed by giant hands. I know this trick has been round for a while now, and was quite faddish a few years back – but I thought the technique behind it must be quite complex. It turns out that someone has built the software so that it’s just a matter of sliding a preset bar up and down the picture to determine the point of focus, and with a bit of work, I should improve quite quickly.


Anyway, I love the effect – the buildings and hills like a setting for a model railway, the strange fragility granted the human figures and the trees. It is like the creation of a short story – or flash fiction – out of the broader, coarser materials of life, a distilling of the elements. I think I miss writing shorter pieces, though I really hadn’t written many. I prefer the flash fiction or the prose (or otherwise) poem.


When the draft of the novel is finished, I can bring out the finer tools, the magnifying glass. The flashes will have to come later, when the bigger spread is at last done with: a vision of a chapbook I can balance on one finger, with a cover of tiny mountains and at their base, a city of tiny houses where the crumbs of narrative will live.



Filed under consolations of writing, Edinburgh, New York, Planning, The Now

15 responses to “The Model World

  1. Beautiful photos…remind me of visiting Luxumbourg when I was a child…there’s a place called “Madurodam” where you can walk around a miniaturized replica of thier country.

    • I remember visiting a place like that in Cornwall when I was a child – a model replica of a small village. The village had suffered a bad flood once, and to commemorate this the model had a little lever which would raise the water level on the tiny stream, which would flood the town. Lowering the lever drained the water again.

  2. These are so fun Helen! Very beautiful.
    It’s amazing how simple blurring changes an image so dramatically. Downsizing the world so to speak. Sometimes you just have to do that…

    I have done a little tilt shift in Photoshop, click on the little digger in the photo set if you are interested.

  3. I love the boats, Helen.
    I spent last night carving huge clumps off of the clay lump that is my WIP. I feel so far from the miniature work, but like you I hope by the time I bring out the fine chisel, I can fit the story in the palm of my hand.

    • Oslo is such a beautiful city…expensive, but quite lovely.

      Personally, I would love to literally make a tiny tiny book of perfect things. I know I’m going to be one of those people that has the furniture from dollhouses for no good reason. A bookcase of tiny, unreadable but real books. Maybe I should write a story of someone like that instead.

  4. LOVE THIS! Reminds me a bit of Marwencol. He does the opposite– makes the small and fake seem life-like.

  5. I always love your photos. seriously fantastic.

  6. When I was a little girl, my mother had a set of cardboard houses in bright colors, decorated with delicate shingles and tiny fake trees. She used to bring them out at Christmas (and probably still has them, if I know my mama) and my sister and I would play with them for hours, arranging and rearranging and making up stories about the people who lived there. These pictures remind me of those cardboard houses.

    • That’s wonderful – seeds of the imagination, the way children can get lost for hours in the details of things…I used to make cardboard box worlds, one I remember had plastic dinosaurs who roamed around a kind of desert.

  7. Very cool. My son would love this – his favourite place is MiniLand at the Lego theme park.

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