Based on the images you are about to view, you might believe that St. Louis photographer Carrie M. Becker is an urban explorer of abandoned buildings. She assures us she is not, at least not with this series of work. The truth is that Becker creates these photographs from the comfort of her own studio. The walls, floors, ceilings, and all of the objects you see are part of cardboard dioramas she makes on a tabletop in her studio.
According to Becker, the inspiration for her work may start with the common allure of beautiful decay, but it’s the desire to render a believable world as authentically as possible that keeps her going. For example, the inventive Becker has taught herself to create, on a 1:6 scale, the cracked plaster of a water-damaged ceiling. She has figured out ways to tarnish a tiny bedroom mirror, or adding, then stripping off various layers of paint on a rain-soaked wooden surface. Fabric patterns must be made in the correct scale for drapery and upholstery, simulating the appearance of twenty years’ worth of dust. Even floorboards must be the proper thickness to be realistic as a photograph, maddening challenges that test her patience in the creation of her decayed macro worlds.
Common household materials can take on extraordinary properties when viewed through her lens. For example, thin wooden coffee stirrers can become floorboards. Scrapbooking paper is perfect for simulating wallpaper, quilted paper towels can be used for mattress coverings, masking tape works well for making window shades, and coffee can be brushed on any surface to give a worn and weathered look. Lightly shaking out the dirt from a vacuum cleaner bag provides more than enough dust to age any scene.
Unlike some photographers who actually shoot the inside of abandoned buildings, Becker’s predilection for recreating these interiors may seem like an odd or obsessive means to an end, but her end goal is to create a universe that she alone has jurisdiction over. For Becker, it is not enough to merely photograph that which already exists. Becker’s world is created entirely by her imagination.
Carrie M. Becker is represented exclusively by the William Shearburn Gallery.
Visit Carrie at her website.
Of Small Rooms runs until July 10, 2015 at William Shearburn Gallery in St. Louis