'Imaginary View' by Dan Tobin Smith and Rachel Thomas, London

Imaginary View at London's Somerset House
Photographer and Wallpaper* contributor Dan Tobin Smith and designer Rachel Thomas have conjured an elaborate landscape for their first joint exhibition, 'Imaginary View' at London's Somerset House
(Image credit: Dan Tobin )

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.

The golden era of 1930s Hollywood

The pair have crafted gargantuan stage sets from polystyrene that harken back to the golden era of 1930s Hollywood and ancient Rome

(Image credit: Dan Tobin )

mise en scènes

The meticulously composed mise en scènes were shot on large format black and white film, revealing a rich depth in tonality and detail upon close inspection

(Image credit: Dan Tobin Smith)

The exhibition places

The exhibition 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

(Image credit: Dan Tobin Smith)

Light exposure

Tobin Smith said of their laborious production process, ‘Light, exposure, perspective – all the elements come together in the studio. It is pretty intense. It’s an event’

(Image credit: Dan Tobin Smith)

ADDRESS

West Wing Galleries
Somerset House
London WC2R 1AL

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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.