On first glance, Anna Carey’s photographs appear to be just that: photographs. Yet with closer inspection, it becomes clear that these are, in fact, fictional spaces created in miniature. Carey is an Australian artist based in Los Angeles whose work overlaps photography, model-making, film and drawing. The most recent collection, Madam Mystery, imagines a series of shops offering services like palmistry, tarot reading and spiritual healing. Each model is crafted by hand, complete with glowing neon signs and twilight backdrops. Through these eerily lifelike models, Carey encourages viewers “to drift between reality and daydreams.”
Carey’s dioramas stand out for their attention to detail, with tiny flowers emerging from brick walls and crystals sitting behind panes of glass. Each rectangular shopfront has a distinct identity: a name, phone number and colour scheme. There’s a sense of texture, too, creating the illusion of fabrics, stones and corrugated iron. Only when we peer more deeply does the truth becomes apparent: folds appear in cardboard roofs, whilst paint peels from the walls. “The camera lens magnifies the model with all its imperfections,” Carey notes. “It reminds the viewer that the photograph has been constructed.”
Many of Carey’s models are inspired by real-life buildings. Readers might be reminded of the Prada Marfa (2005), for example, the replica luxury store by artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset located along US route 90 in Texas. Like the buildings in Madam Mystery, it stands alone and surrounded by desert. Photographic interest in this kind of structure – known as vernacular architecture – can be traced to early proponents like Ed Ruscha (b. 1937), who chronicled gas stations along route 66 during the 1960s, or the New Topographics group, whose subjects included 1970s parking lots, suburban housing and warehouses. Carey is reinventing this genre with a twist, for a whole new generation of viewers.
Images courtesy Anna Carey.
1. Crystal Mystery 2022, giclee print, edition of 6, 89 x 104cm
2. Psychic Advisor 2022, giclee print, edition of 6, 89 x 104cm
3. Dejavu Psychic, 2022, giclee print, edition of 6, 89 x 104cm
4. Everything you imagine is real 2022, giclee print, edition of 6, 88 x 100cm
5. You can bring your fantasies to earth 2022, giclee print, edition of 6, 88 x 100cm
6. Love Advisor 2022, giclee print, edition of 6, 89 x 104cm
7. New Age Psychic 2022, giclee print, edition of 6, 89 x 104cm