Little kids stage wars all the time. They set up (pretend) battles with their toys of choice: sometimes Barbies, other times Army men. It's all plastic-hitting-plastic and pow! noises. Of course, these little kids don't quite realize that if their playtime activity came to life, it would be grand-scale mayhem and tragedy. They're much too young to realize the actualities of all that.
Lucas North, on the other hand, knew exactly what he was doing when he staged the photo we chose for this week's cover of CityBeat, part of his Fake War series. It's true: That weirdly realistic-looking photo is not of two human warriors in combat; it's of two tiny plastic soldiers that North staged under hot studio lighting. The 22-year-old fine-art major at Long Beach City College (www.lucnorth.com) collected dirt, random grasses and weeds, put
up a table, arranged the lighting, started messing around with composition and then began to photograph the arrangement.
'I would say 75 percent of the time I shoot film, and I usually think film is way better than digital,' North says. 'But with this, I had to take around 200 shots until I got it right.'
In getting it right, North got an end result where 'the characters look life-sized, but they're definitely an inch tall.'
Why would he choose to photograph a fake war instead of the real thing? It turns out that North, whose parents were both in the military, as was his girlfriend, really isn't too interested in actual combat.
'I'm a moral draft dodger,' North says.
Really, Fake War is more about the media's role in wartime and the public's desensitization of seeing all these combat images splayed out in front of them on their television screens.
'The premise of Fake War is that nobody is really ever in control of anything and nobody is really seeing what they think they're seeing,' North says, 'especially in the media.'
In the end, the photo makes us really think about the vast difference between what's really happening and what's been created out of plastic, bright lights and a little imagination.