Quarantined travel photographer creates miniature outdoor scenes with everyday objects

With all the closures and travel restrictions across the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic, many people are anxiously waiting for the day they can travel again. Erin Sullivan is a travel photographer based in Los Angeles, California. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Erin has been self-isolating, which has prevented her from travelling for work as she typically does. So, while sheltering in place in her home, she found a creative way to create the amazing outdoor scenes she is accustomed to capturing in the outdoors but in a unique way.

Erin Sullivan miniature outdoor scenes

Using food and other everyday objects she found around the house, she began creating miniature outdoor scenes featuring toy figurines. Aptly titled Our Great Indoors, her fantastic photography series allows her 150k+ Instagram followers to still share her love of neverending nature.

“Normally in my work, I spend a lot of time travelling and in the outdoors, and obviously right now we can’t do that. We have to stay home, that’s how we’re saving lives.”

The resourceful photographer’s first miniature outdoor scene — titled Pillow Ice Caves — comprises pillows, pillowcases, and a pair of tiny explorers in a canoe. Since then, Erin’s portfolio has expanded to feature all sorts of everyday objects. In fact, in one image, stacks of pancakes are repurposed as canyons, while trickling golden syrup looks like a river. In another photo, Erin created a broccoli forest from the green vegetable and placed a tiny hiker in the scene.

Scenes created with everyday objects & food

“I’ve always been interested in abstraction as a tool for photography,” she said. “I always try to abstract what I’m seeing so it gives the audience a little bit of a pause. I wanted to apply that same concept to the things in my house.”

Each miniature outdoor scene is planned out in advance and shot with clever lighting so that it looks just like the real outdoors. And according to Erin, she tries to get very clear on the idea for a scene before starting to assemble it. From there, she sketches it out, which can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to set up, then 30-60 minutes to photograph it.

Setting the scene

Erin has worked to be responsible for the process and materials she uses in this project and primarily uses things she already has around the house for her shoots. However, if she needs any additional materials, she’ll grab it on her weekly grocery run, rather than adding any additional outings to her week that could increase her interactions with others.

She’s encouraging others to try her miniature outdoor scenes with the #OurGreatIndoors challenge, even if they aren’t professional photographers. Scroll down for some of Sullivan’s photos from her Our Great Indoors series, and then follow her on Instagram for more.

Asparagus takes the place of trees
Ice cave miniature outdoor scene
Erin Sullivan miniature outdoor scenes
Canoe trip miniature scene
Miniature photography by Erin Sullivan