Miniature metropolis

Photographer Michael Paul Smith combines miniature models with real backgrounds to re-create the town he grew up in.

Photographer Michael Paul Smith, a former museum display designer, combined miniature models with real backgrounds to re-create the Midwestern town of his youth. This photo reveals the actual size of the models he uses.

In this photo, the telephone pole, stop sign, white house and tree (far right) are real, and about a block away from the models. The models themselves sit on a table.

At 20 feet long, the 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser was one of the largest automobiles ever produced. This model and the diner behind it are 1/24th actual size. Smith put LED lights in the building to make it glow.

The stools inside Smith's model diner consist of painted plastic plugs used to fill screw holes. The metal pieces that hold the plugs are finishing washers found in furniture making. The two coffee pots are clear plastic beads with metal washers on top.

By pure luck, a real train rode slowly through the background just as Smith took this photograph of a model 1950 Ford Crestliner.

Smith snuck into the parking lot of an abandoned building to use it as a background for his diecast models of 1950s automobiles.

Smith went for a snapshot quality in this photo showing both front and rear views of a 1/24-scale model Chevy from the 1950s.

Working from a vintage photo in a local hardware store, Smith strove to re-create the past by photographing his models in an abandoned parking lot.

On a 90-degree day, Smith wheeled this model of two 1959 Chevys outside an ice cream stand to a parking lot outside his shop to capture an authentic summer look.

Smith used smoke to help make the sky look less flat in this photo of model cars and houses re-creating his hometown as it might have looked on a Saturday night in the early 1930s.

Model cars stand outside a model movie theater with a provocative-sounding double bill: "Pickup" and "Girls of the Night."

Smith ignited some damp newspaper in a bucket and lit incense to add smoke to this photo. The result is a street scene as it might have looked as a Midwestern tornado approached, circa 1936.

A 1958 Edsel station wagon, 1/24th actual size, is at the center of this winter scene. Smith used his local park in wintertime as the background, but the snow on the model cars was achieved with baking soda and water.

Smith worked from a picture postcard of a local business called Dink's Speed Shop for this photo. To give it the right look, he removed the custom fender skirt on the model Ford and added a chrome spear.

Smith manipulated a yellow filter to give this photo of a model car and trailer a vintage look. The trees in the background are real.

A 1941 Chevrolet stands outside a bungalow in the same 1/24th scale. The trees and telephone wires, however, are real.

What looks like the hand of a giant intrudes into this photo, helping reveal how Michael Paul Smith manipulates models against real backdrops.

Photographer Michael Paul Smith is in the foreground of his 1/24th-scale model town. Each building is lit from the inside by one 10-watt white Christmas tree light.

See more of Michael Paul Smith's models