Wallpaper* owes a great debt to Dan Tobin Smith (opens in new tab). The photographer is a longtime Wallpaper* contributor, bringing his bold interiors, elaborate constructions and highly adept eye to our pages for well over a decade, helping shape our aesthetic along the way.
Imaginary View, a new show at London's Somerset House (opens in new tab), once again pairs Tobin with Rachel Thomas (opens in new tab), the designer who has undertaken frequent collaborations and commissions with the photographer. For the new show the pair have created and photographed an elaborate artificial landscape, hewn from polystyrene and paired with unexpected materials like a large pool of milk. It sounds far fetched, but the strictly analogue approach - carved blocks and black and white 5x4 film - have a real majesty and monumentalism, the ruins of a forgotten civilization, perhaps, or the perverse geometric experiments of an outsider architect.
The show places the real structures alongside Tobin's imagery, juxtaposing the precisely framed imaginary worlds created by the lens with their unvarnished reality, a nod to fantastical architecture over the ages.
The clever application of smoke and light helps twist the proportion and scale of the sets, as if Tobin and Thomas had unlocked the doors to a hidden world and then documented it in heroic, cinematic scale. The otherwordly vibe is preserved in the limited edition catalogue, a box set of photogravure prints, a highly crafted method that accentuates the lights and darks of these strange new worlds.
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Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.
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