'Miniature' New York comes to life in tilt-shift photos

Francesca Street, CNNPublished 5th April 2018
(CNN) — Imagine New York in miniature: the Empire State Building rendered in LEGO-size scale and tiny figures crossing a diminutive Brooklyn Bridge.
Photographer Jasper Léonard makes this dream world a reality in his book "New York Resized," published by Lannoo Publishers. Léonard takes striking tilt-shift shots, often from rooftops or helicopters, to transform the city into a tiny toy town.
"New York was my 'dream subject' to use the tilt-shift technique," Léonard tells CNN Travel.

Miniature metropolis

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Léonard uses a tilt shift lens to capture a unique perspective on New York City.
Courtesy Jasper Léonard
These distinctive snapshots are hazy imaginings of New York as a mini metropolis -- the blurred bright lights and tiny cars add a degree of distance and disconnect from busy street scenes.
Léonard started experimenting with this unusual perspective while studying visual arts.
"I started redesigning lenses to research the link between reality and its photographic expression," he explains. "As a part of this project, I created lens attachments with mirrors in them and I was able to redesign the way I photograph reality."
The photographer prides himself on rarely relying on Photoshop, clarifying he only used it in five images in the book. Instead, he creates this innovative effect via his homemade lens adapter and two classic tilt-shift lenses.
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Léonard wanted to photograph the Big Apple because of its ubiquity in media.
Courtesy Jasper Léonard
"I take a lot of pleasure in looking through a camera and seeing New York as a miniature," he says. "There are a lot of nice digital ways to use tilt shift as well, even Instagram has a pretty nice filter."
Léonard shares his quirky photographs on his Instagram account, showcasing shots in Antwerp, Tenerife and Paris -- as well as the Big Apple.
His New York book follows up a successful take on Antwerp and Belgium, also published by Lannoo.

The small/Big Apple

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Léonard makes the world look like a toy town.
Courtesy Jasper Léonard
"I've been on the look out for high places, flying around and driving around with 'bucket trucks' so I can make the world seemingly miniature," says Léonard.
New York was his dream photography playground, thanks to its ubiquity in the media.
"Thanks to TV shows and Hollywood, New York and its visual scenery is known by the entire world," says the photographer.
Because the city's streets are so famous, Leonard says it was easy to blur the lines between fantasy and reality -- because the division is already murky.
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Iconic places in New York are turned on their head in Léonard's images.
Courtesy Jasper Léonard
"The tilt-shift technique works best on well known places, Manhattan and its visual context has a place in everybody's mind. For me even now, New York feels like a city halfway in between cinema and reality."
Léonard contextualizes his dazzling shots with famous quotes about the city that never sleeps, by figures from Ezra Pound to Lana del Rey.
"There are many wonderful quotes about New York, that give a different view on New York," reflects Léonard. "For a photo book it works really well to match quotes next to images."

Future projects

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Léonard wants to take photographs of Hong Kong and Tokyo in the future.
Courtesy Jasper Léonard
He's conquered America, and now Léonard wants to take his distinctive take on the world elsewhere.
"There is still a lot to see in the world," he says. "This year I'll be exploring Amsterdam for an 'Amsterdam Resized' book. But in the future I'd like to see a city in Asia. Cities like Hong Kong or Tokyo do tickle my imagination."
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