Model Neighborhood


Artist and photographer Michael Paul Smith has spent hours upon hours photographing one special town that he holds very dear to his heart. There is something that always drew him to it, and the images he created are simple, but stunning. They glow with small-town charm and innocence, reminiscent of days and decades past.

Each photo brings back memories and tells a story of how life used to be in the small towns of the United States.  

There’s a lot going on in these pictures, and it’s obvious that this town is special and charming.  But as it turns out, this town is not real.

Michael spent 25 years building his version of a town he called Elgin Park, using custom 1/24th scale miniature models and sets, meticulously crafting every detail. The buildings are constructed of resin-coated paper, styrene plastic, and basswood, plus numerous found objects. The vehicles are from Michael's collection of 300+ commercially produced, diecast models.

No Photoshop was used in these images; they're all composed in the camera. It is the oldest trick in the special effects book: lining up a model with an appropriate background, then photographing it.


If you didn’t know any better, you might think these are vintage photos of a small town back in the 40's, 50's, or 60's…


But, behind the scenes, the 60 year-old photographer created the hyper-realistic images and used his camera to get the perspective he wanted.

What we see are close-up photos of the small 1/24th scale background models this man built for his 1/24th scale model cars.

He started building these models of a small town for fun. He wanted to practice his craft, turn work into a hobby, and then document the results with some creative and stunning photography.

He never imagined this hobby would grow to be what he now calls a “dream-like reconstruction” of a town like the one he grew up in.

To Michael, this is what quintessential small town America looked like back when he was a kid.

It is absolutely realistic and beautiful.

If “Elgin Park” were a real town, I would love to live there.

He creates the scenes by setting up Danbury Mint and Franklin Mint die cast autos and trucks in front of his models on card tables.

Then, he uses the surrounding scenery as the backgrounds for the model buildings and cars in his photos.

The buildings and lighting are set up, the cars are in place....

The perspective through the camera lens has to be JUST right…

Even when you know what’s going on behind the scenes...

The resulting photos are perfect - and completely convincing.

It’s all an illusion.

But Michael is able to make incredibly convincing illusions.

His selfies aren’t part of the official photo series, but I think they add some fun to the charm of his work.

The details in Michael's background props make his pictures amazing.

Did I mention the background details?

How small is 1/24th scale?   Here's a hint. 

First the setup and positioning...

Then the camera angles for the photos.

A UFO crashed just outside of Elgin Park?  


CBS News piece from 2010