What does spilled paprika powder and planet Mars have in common? To a New Jersey-based artist Matthew Albanese, the visually similar color and texture of the two lead to creating a meticulous diorama of Mars, and then photographing it in a way that you wouldn’t think it’s fake. Eventually this revelation resulted in the “Strange World” series, where the artist uses various condiments to make incredible miniature landscapes that look like photos.

Matthew’s work starts by walking down the isles of the supermarkets, looking for material that he could possibly make use of. One diorama takes around a month to create, and Matthew needs around 500 shots of each of them before he’s pleased with the result. By using forced perspective, carefully planned lighting and photographing his miniatures from a specific angle, Matthew can make you believe he was actually there when the volcano erupted or the storm started.

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1. Tornado

The scene was made of steel wool, cotton, ground parsley and moss.

2. Mountains

This model is made out of faux fur(fields), cotton (clouds) and sifted tile grout (mountains). The perspective is forced like in the rest of the images, and the lighting effect was created by simply shifting the white balance.

3. River Horizon

This diorama was made using painted parchment paper, thread, hand dyed ostrich feathers, carved chocolate, wire, raffia, masking tape, coffee, synthetic potting moss and cotton.

4. Aurora Borealis

The effect was created by photographing a beam of colored light against a black curtain to achieve the edge effect. The trees in the picture are so far the only real life element in any of these images. The stars are simply a strobe light, going through holes in cork board.

5. Paradise Island

The scene was made from cotton, salt, cooked sugar, tin foil, feathers & canvas.

6. Mars Landscapes

To get these Mars-like landscapes the artist used paprika, cinnamon, thyme, nutmeg, chili powder and charcoal.

7. Forest Landscape

Diorama is constructed from wood, moss, yellow glitter, clear garbage bags, cooked sugar, scotch-brite pot scrubbers, bottle brushes, clipping from a bush in bloom (white flowers) clear thread, sand, tile grout (coloring), wire, paper and alternating yellow, red and orange party bulbs.

8. Waterfall

This model was made out of glass, plexiglass, tile grout, moss, twigs, salt, painted canvas & dry ice. The waterfall was created from a time exposure of falling table salt.

9. Moon Lanscape

It took two months for the artist to store up enough fireplace ash to create this lunar landscape. The darker rocks are made of mixed tile grout, the flag – crumpled paper & wire. The Earth is a video still projected onto the wall. Inspired by the Apollo 11 mission.

10. Icebergs

These icebergs were made out of 25 pounds of sugar, cooked at varying temperatures (hard crack & pulled sugar recipes). It’s basically made out of candy salt, egg whites, corn syrup, cream of tartar, powdered sugar, blue food coloring, india ink & flour. It took three days to cook, and two weeks to put it all together.

11. Underwater World

The underworld diorama was made out of walnuts, poured and cast candle wax, wire, glitter, peanut shells, flock, plaster, wire, dyed starfish, compressed moss, jellybeans(anemones), sponges, wax coated seashells, toothpaste, clay, figs, feathers, Q-tips, nonpareils. The water surface was created using vinyl shower curtain, plexiglass and clear epoxy. The reflected sunlight effect was made out of a video projector through fake fog. The lens was covered with a piece of blue stretch wrap which created subtle distortions throughout the image. 11 light sources were used in total, including the projector.

12. Volcano

Volcano was constructed out of tile grout, cotton and phosphorous ink. This model was illuminated from within by 6-60 watt light bulbs.