Just six months into his journey as a scale model photographer, Vatsal Kataria is improving his craft and making a lasting impression with his realistic sets. Based in New Delhi, Kataria (also known as VAT KAT Photography) builds impressive sets from inexpensive materials for results that are astounding.
His conceptual miniature photography features everything from high-speed car chases to a calm island oasis. Each set is a labor of love and a sharpening of skills, as Kataria strives to push his abilities with each shoot. We had a chance to speak with Kataria about how he got started in the field, his biggest challenges, and his love of DIY props.
Read on for our exclusive interview.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get started with miniature photography?
I am a 27-year-old commercial still life and food photographer based in New Delhi, India. One day I was totally free had no work. I was going through my Instagram page and I saw a photo of a toy car near some waterfalls, so I had a wild thought. How can I do something like this without going anywhere? I started working, researching and experimenting. The first week was so difficult and an epic fail for me.
So I brainstormed for the next 24 hours and started making a new set again and it worked. It’s not about just the photo, it’s a journey to become a better artist day by day. It’s been only 6 months since I started miniature photography, so I have to learn a lot.
Have you always been interested in making models?
Not at all. Yes, I was interested in new creative methods to do creative still life photo shoots, but making miniatures was never the plan.
I did not even know that I was able to make a miniature set while doing my first miniature photo shoot, snowy Audi. I almost quit because I had no idea how to bring my imagination into reality for the shoot. The shoot I was even sure would ever help me to grow and I was so wrong hahaha.
What was it about this first photo shoot that made it so difficult?
My first shoot was difficult because I just had an idea, I did not have a plan. I watched some tutorials and in every one they were using standard products made for miniatures, which are quite costly, so I decided to make my set the most inexpensive way possible.
Making mountains was also a challenge because I didn’t have an idea oh how to give them proper shape, but after making six bad batches of mountains I made the perfect one. While deciding how to make snow I was totally stuck, because flour was not white enough for me, so I found baking powder a great cheap snow for my projects.
You mention trying to make the props yourself, rather than purchase them. Why is that?
I make all the sets using waste products or with inexpensive materials. It’s not that I cannot buy those things, it is because after watching my work and videos thousands of people across the globe have messaged me to say that they really got inspired and they will try to do what they always wanted to do, but were hesitant because everything is so expensive.
My method has flaws too, sometimes people says it’s not realistic at all. It’s not nice, but the ratio of love to hate is 9:1. So I do these shoot to inspire and, of course, to enhance my skills.
What the most challenging set you’ve created thus far?
The shoot where Fiat 500 is going up on a mystical hill I had to create the trees, and I had no clue how to make them without spending anything so I had an idea to use twigs and join them. I went to the park to pick some twigs of different shapes and sizes. Lots of people in that park thought I was some kind of crazy guys obsessed with twigs.
What’s the shoot you are most proud of and why?
I am really proud of my first shoot—Snowy Audi I never ever thought that this shoot was going to make me an internationally published photographer, so this shoot is very close to my heart.
So many people turn to digital and photoshop to create special effects these days. What do you think the benefits are of working in your way instead?
If I was using digital methods to create what I do, I wouldn’t be here giving this interview. It’s my art that makes me different from a graphic artist, I use Photoshop for enhancing the beauty I create.
How long to you spend building an average set?
It depends on the project and if it consists of different elements like my Personal Island. This project consists of mountains, greenery, an ocean, and beach so it took me around seven days to create, capture, and enhance the shoot. Generally, it’s a minimum of 3 days to a maximum of 15 days.
What are the most creative materials you’ve used to create the final result of your photos?
My very best is plaster. I do not make new mountains every shoot. I use old ones and use plaster to give some new shape according to the need. So plaster is my sidekick I must say.
What’s your advice for people looking to get into the field?
My advice to newcomers is it’s a time-consuming process. You cannot achieve results within one or two days. You have to be patient because it’s a process to became better every day.
Any upcoming projects you’d like the share?
Yes, I am working on two projects theses days for construction vehicles, so fingers crossed for the results.