1957 Maserati 250F, the fifth work in the Disintegrating II series. Photos courtesy Studio Oefner.
Swiss artist Fabian Oefner sees things differently than the rest of us. Not content to view cars (or in this case, incredibly detailed scale models of cars) as art by themselves, Oefner understands that the real beauty is in the parts that lie beneath. Following up on his 2013 photo series called “Disintegrating I,” Oefner has recently debuted a new series, Disintegrating II, which takes the photographer’s work to an entirely new level.
1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe, from Disintegrating I.
The automobile scale models included in Disintegrating I include a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe; 1961 Jaguar E-Type; and 1967 Ferrari 330 P4. While the work was innovative, it’s readily apparent to all but the casual observer that the “exploded” cars are, in fact, scale models. Hardware, such as screws and bolts, is clearly out of scale, while components like the wheels and tires on the Mercedes-Benz don’t resemble their full-size counterparts. Oefner’s work improved with the final image in Disintegrating I, and the Ferrari 330 P4 delivers a sense of realism that would make even the most die-hard Tifosi wonder if a real Ferrari was disassembled for the photo.
Ferrari 330 P4 from Disintegrating I.
That’s not to take away from Oefner’s work, which is remarkably complex and time-consuming. The artist keeps the brand of models, as well as his actual technique, a closely guarded secret, but suffice it to say that each scale model contains over 1,000 parts. To begin a new photo, Oefner starts with a sketch to envision the positioning of each component, then he takes the model apart piece by piece. Using miniature clamps, pins or string, Oefner precisely positions each part, paying careful attention to the angle and lighting, then captures a photograph. Later, in Photoshop software, each individual photo is masked, cut out and layered into the master photograph, using the car’s wheels for position. Given the time it must take to create a single image, one has to wonder: Is it genius? Madness? Both?
1969 Ford GT40 from Disintegrating II.
Circa-1935 Bugatti Type 57 SC, from Disintegrating II.
The Disintegrating II series features a circa-1936 Auto Union Type C; a 1957 Maserati 250F; a 1969 Ford GT40; a circa 1935 Bugatti 57 SC; and a 1982 Porsche 956. As with the Ferrari 330 P4 image in the first series, each is realistic enough that most will need to look twice to see that models, and not actual cars, were used in the creation of the images. Like cutaway art or exploded drawings, Oefner’s work may be an acquired taste, but it certainly isn’t something one is likely to see every day.
Of the labor that went into creating the Disintegrating II series, Oefner said:
These are possibly the ‘slowest high-speed’ images ever captured. It took almost two months to create an image that looks as if it was captured in a fraction of a second. The whole disassembly in itself took more than a day for each car due to the complexity of the models. But that’s a bit of a boy thing. There’s an enjoyment in the analysis, discovering something by taking it apart, like peeling an onion. The hardest part was actually setting up the camera, lens and light, because the biggest frustration is when you can’t get any beautiful image out of it!
For more information on Oefner’s work, including availability of limited-edition prints (sold through the Mechanical Art Devices (M.A.D.) Gallery in Geneva, Switzerland or Dubai, UAE), visit FabianOefner.com or MBandF.com/Mad-Gallery.