What is this, a city for ants? That's what Belgian photographer Jasper Léonard's photos make New York City, the tenth-largest metropolis in the world, look like. In a new photo book called New York Resized (Lannoo Publishers), Léonard uses a very long, jerry-rigged lens to create super impactful tilt-shift photos that make it look like he's got the whole world in his hands.
Tilt-shift, or the blurring of the background and foreground of a photo, isn't a new technique—in fact, you've been able to simulate it with an Instagram filter since 2011. But as you can see in New York Resized, the effect can be riveting in the right place at the right time. "Our brains know that this kind of blur is a signal that ‘the scale must be something small,'" Léonard says. His innovation for this series is a homemade adaptor combining a mirrorless Sony camera body with a Canon lens and attachments, which he says allowed him to "cover many different angles… and still be able to carry the camera gear around the city (without collapsing)."
Perched on rooftops and in helicopters, or occasionally using a drone, that mobility allowed him to capture unique "Only in New York" moments like Big Bird chilling in Central Park, bagpipers marching down the middle of a large avenue, and a chintzy white limo doing a late night bodega run. Thanks to the tilt-shift effect, each scene feels like it was assembled LEGO-style in a toy chest. Heavy-duty construction equipment becomes Tonka trucks, townhouses look like dollhouses, and highways are transformed into Hotwheels tracks. Léonard has given Antwerp and other cities in Belgium this treatment, but it feels ideally suited for this city of small villages on the Hudson.
Check out the mesmerizing effect of Léonard's photography in the images below. New York Resized is out November 20.
New York Resized is out November 20 with Lannoo Publishers. Learn more about Jasper Léonard on his website, and pre-order the book here.