27 miniatures photog 1

Galen Tom stands in his studio in Fairfield, July 18. Tom makes whimsical, miniatures-style photographs with a focus on social issues and irony. He has created two series of works and his photographs are on display at several locations in Vacaville. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)


It’s a small world, after all, in Galen Tom’s photos

By From page C1 | July 27, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Galen Tom had enough of the flies in his house.

In addition to delivering their demise, he found revenge in another form.

He took a miniature male figure, right hand raised with a swatter, and posed it in a windowsill. On the wall before the man was a winged insect.

Tom then picked up his camera, photographed the scene and called it “Swatter.”

When a beer commercial touted that the brew was so frothy you could float the bottle cap in it, Tom answered the challenge by posing a miniature man, wearing red shorts, in the bottle cap, floating on the beer. The man is holding his own small bottle of beer.

Again, he snapped the scene and called it “Beer Guy.”

California’s lack of rain is the focus of another miniature scene, appropriately titled “Drought.” It features a small plastic giraffe licking the sink. A bar of soap sits nearby, drenched in bubbles.

Tom, a 1993 graduate of Armijo High School, works at Solano Community College in its Information Technology Department. Off duty, he trades programming for petite things and cladding for his Canon camera.

He’s created two series of miniature people living in a big world.

“The Small World Among Us” focuses on the world of micro-human worker bees adapting to ours. “Those Giants Among Us” is a spinoff and centers on the micro-human perspective of interacting with normal-size humans.

“It’s a creative outlet,” said Tom, who was in a garage band during his high school years. “It’s stress relief.”

There’s something about taking a thought, making it a reality and snapping a photo, he said.

However, he’s uncomfortable being called an artist. Hearing that term makes him feel compelled to continue his work and evolve with it. Working under such pressure takes the fun out of the art, Tom said.

Tom’s work has been called whimsical photography, a term he finds acceptable.

“It’s not an insult,” he said. “It’s respectful of the work.”

Seattle-based photographer Christopher Boffoli is probably one of the best-known artists doing the same type of photography.

The fine-art photographer released the book “Big Appetites” last year. It showcases tiny, detailed human figures posted in real food environments. Tom owns a copy of the book.

Audrey Heller, who lives in San Francisco, is another photographer who has gained momentum working in the micro-world. Tom also admires her work.

He ventured into photography while working on his master’s degree in business administration. He took a photography course at Solano College and was encouraged by his teacher, Ron Zak, to run with his own ideas, Tom said.

His first shot was based on “rock, paper, scissors” and features a pair of scissors stalking a paper doll.

“This is an artistic side of me I never knew I had,” Tom said.

His work was part of an exhibit last year at the St. Vinnie’s Culture Club in Vallejo. It was his first solo show. He had one week to prepare for it.

Most of the work is created in a studio, a converted bedroom in his Fairfield abode. One shot, done in the kitchen with flour as a prop, required an hour of cleanup.

Because of the steady hand and patience he needs for shooting the photos, Tom won’t drink coffee. He’s also learned, the hard way, that Super Glue takes the paint off his miniatures.

Tom tries not to use the same miniature twice. If he must, he tries to find a way to change its appearance.

Reaction to his work has ranged from happy to disappointed, he said. Laughter and “oh my god,” are among his favorite responses.

He’s watched some people walk by and just sigh.

But don’t ask him to explain his art.

“My art is about how the audience reacts to it,” he said.

In that case, it’s cool to Jacqueline Melara, a receptionist at Toyota of Vacaville. Some of Tom’s work hangs at the business.

Her favorite is “Dry Cork,” which features a micro-man, complete with a jackhammer, attempting to open a bottle of wine in an interesting manner.

Tom’s work can also be found at the Vacaville Town Square Library and The Corner Store in Vacaville. You can see more of it at www.galentom.com.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.

Discussion | 2 comments

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  • Chris RhodenJuly 27, 2014 - 6:55 am

    Galen......great work......I look forward to viewing more of your work. Keep up this wonderful art form.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Shari StevensJuly 28, 2014 - 1:18 am

    Galen you are awesome my friend! Keep up the good work!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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