Photographer Fabian Oefner tricks the eye at MAD Gallery in Geneva

Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé exploded view
It took artist Fabian Oefner weeks to 'blow' the gullwing doors - and every other component - off this scale-model 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé. The resulting photographs are on show at MAD, the MB&F gallery in Geneva
(Image credit: TBC)

Every little boy's dream? Perhaps. But these scrupulously photographed explosions are not at all what they seem. Fabian Oefner, the Swiss photographer acclaimed for capturing unseen micro-seconds in time, has swerved in another direction for these most recent snapshots, on show until May 2014 at Mechanical Art Devices (MAD) in Geneva.

Breaking down his subjects to their individual components, Oefner has manufactured moments of trompe l'oeil by capturing each individual piece separately, then assembling them in 'spontaneous' form. It takes him weeks to achieve each instant on film. Says the artist: 'These are possibly the slowest high-speed images ever captured.'

For his 'Disintegrating' series, Oefner deconstructed model roadsters like a mechanic. The process was 'like peeling an onion,' he says. Then he dangled each screw and panel with needles and wire - more than a thousand in all - for a portrait. In postproduction he superimposed each shot to form the final explosive scene. The 'victims', a 1954 Mercedes 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé, a 1961 Jaguar E-Type and a 1967 Ferrari 330 P4, retain a remarkable grace under fire.

Meanwhile, with 'Hatch', Oefner's follow-up sequence, the artist has machinated the 'birth' of a model 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO from a gypsum shell, like a chick in the nest. This time he smashed the shell and used a microphone to send a signal to his Hasselblad H4D, which captured each reverberating shard.

He repeated the action with dozens of models until the hatching appeared as lifelike as possible. What was in fact painstaking ultimately appears as an impulsive detonation, a mere push of a button by a mischievous child.

1967 Ferrari 330 P4 side view exploded rear

To capture his trompe l'oeil images, Oefner itemised each piece of the model to the last screw (a 1967 Ferrari 330 P4 in this case), then photographed each separately, using needles and wires to freeze it in mid-air

(Image credit: TBC)

1961 Jaguar E-Type exploded front end

In postproduction the individual pieces were superimposed onto a final scene. The painstaking process makes this 1961 Jaguar E-Type appear captured in an explosive moment in time

(Image credit: TBC)

Car model parts plan

There were some thousand components in each model. Oefner annotated each one before photographing it 

(Image credit: TBC)

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO model incased in shell

For his 'Hatch' series, Oefner cast a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO in a Latex mould filled with gypsum to create a series of 'shells'

(Image credit: TBC)

Shell exploding off model 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

When Oefner smashed the moulds, a microphone recorded the reverberations of the shards, which sent a message to the artist's camera - a Hasselblad H4D - to snap a photo

(Image credit: TBC)

Side view shell exploding off model

He recreated the action with each of his moulds until every shard was captured in perfect position

(Image credit: TBC)

Remaining shell incasing without model

The gypsum 'shell' after the hatching of the Ferrari

(Image credit: TBC)


MAD Gallery
Rue Verdaine 11
1204 Geneva