As part of Society6’s ongoing partnership with Bombay Sapphire to inspire everyday creativity, we’re highlighting the artists from our community who embody this spirit of imagination.
Whether he’s taking a walk through the neighborhood or sitting at his desk, Seattle-based photographer and marketing/advertising strategist Derrick Lin gets inspiration for his artworks from everything around him.
More unique though, is what he does with this inspiration: Lin turns those everyday experiences into miniature scenes, complete with people the size of pencil tips, realistic-yet-dreamy lighting, and handcrafted details. Each scene is set up on his desk (using plenty of common workplace tools like pencils and notebooks) and shot on his iPhone.
And this was the same process he followed when we challenged him to create a piece inspired by Bombay Sapphire’s Gin & Tonic ready-to-drink cans. “The ideation for this project actually started with me taking a sip of the gin,” Lin says. “The fragrance of the drink made me think of a specific mood that calls for the type of lighting I had not tried. I started sketching out the idea and experimenting with ways to set up a miniature scene to enable the lighting scheme.”
Where Lin truly shines is making ordinary experiences feel extraordinary—and the result of this project was no different. Featuring a person at home, Lin uses Bombay’s signature blue and extra-moody lighting to create a photo that perfectly captures a much-needed moment of peace at home.
Here, he shares the thought-process and planning behind the piece, how he got started capturing miniature scenes, and why he chooses to shoot only on his iPhone.
What do you usually do when you need some inspiration?
I really love how light comes through windows or trees and shines on a dimly lit corner of a space. I take long walks around my neighborhood to take mental notes of the scenes I encounter. Having visual stimulation really inspires me. I also enjoy walking through art museums and checking out what artists create.
How do you typically find inspiration for your work?
The core of my artworks is mood, thoughts, and feelings. I am drawn to deep, subtle, and often unexpressed moods that are authentic to me and relatable to many. I choose my topics from things that are on my mind, and I seek to pair it with scenes I see (mostly on my walks in the Seattle area) to bring it to life.
What did the ideation and brainstorming process look like for this project?
The ideation for this project actually started with me taking a sip of the gin. The fragrance of the drink made me think of a specific mood that calls for the type of lighting I had not tried. I started sketching out the idea and experimenting with ways to set up a miniature scene to enable the lighting scheme. It was a few days of trial and error and going back to the drawing board before I finally started prepping for the shoot.
What was the inspiration behind this specific piece?
My inspiration behind this photo was the need to escape the monotone life I have had since the pandemic. Without the luxury of going to places where I used to hang out with friends, I imagined the ability of transforming the atmosphere of my apartment whenever to suit my mood. I envisioned the dreamy and relaxed mood filling my entire living space. Like the Bombay Sapphire ready to drink beverage, what I used to have to get at a bar or restaurant is now readily available at home.
What are the main themes behind it?
The big themes in this piece are calm, relaxation, and accessibility. I wanted to show the idea that with a right mood, a mundane place can become an inspiring space. To do that, I staged an average looking living room, but I painted the props in a monochrome style to highlight an imaginary headspace. I constructed the scene with a set of subtly placed parallel lines to form the perspective similar to isometric style to strengthen the modern look and feel. Lastly, I placed the lighting to both frame the main figure and accentuate the calm and relaxing tone. The whole time when I was creating this photo I felt as if music was part of this scene.
What made you decide to hone in on these specific feelings?
When the idea of my photo started taking shape in my head, I felt compelled to tell the story of resilience. We are still in the pandemic and many aspects of our life are changed or paused, but we can still find ways to catch a break and decompress. We are still able to enjoy some things we love.
What are some of your go-to materials? How did you decide which materials to use for this piece?
My go-to materials are stationeries, as my series centers around the idea of “manifest of imagination when sitting at the desk.” In order to create nuance in the monochrome style color scheme in the scene, I decided to use paper to actually make individual tiny books in several shades of blue that match Bombay Sapphire’s brand colors. It is natural for my photography to feature common stationeries such as notebooks, mugs, pencils and paper clips, etc. Another obvious reason is to use pencils and paper clips to highlight the miniature scale of the figures I use.
A small story behind the prominent role of pencils in my photography is years ago when I first started this project, Jen, a dear friend and coworker of mine, gave me her fancy pencil to use in my pictures. She even bought me those expensive figures and props to help me get started. Her pencil became one of my most frequently used props to this day.
Explain your photography process. What made you decide to shoot only on an iPhone? How do you control the lighting when shooting something so small?
The first reason I chose an iPhone as my camera was accessibility. I used to take the pictures at my office desk at work whenever inspiration hit. I was able to just pull out the phone and shoot the photos. I actually also edit my photos directly on my phone. Over the years, my process has evolved into a long, elaborate, and often meticulous series of steps that take weeks to finalize.
The iPhone still remains my favorite tool not only because I can get into tiny spots and angles that my ideas require, the technology trends help iPhone cameras continuously improve at a rapid pace. Lighting continues to be the most important and yet the most tricky part of my photography. These days, I use a combination of natural sunlight and desk lamps as main sources of lighting. To shoot miniature figures, focus and steady lighting are the biggest challenge. I have to constantly check and adjust to make sure everything is in place. It is extra difficult since I do not use a tripod to take pictures. Lighting setup alone can take me days to finalize.
Did the outcome match what you originally envisioned for this project?
I was very pleased that the final photo matched with my original idea. I had to add in more items to fill the space and introduce a couple more colors to help flesh out the impression of a lived-in and organic space. Overall, I was surprised and very happy that the project went mostly smoothly, which does not happen very often (I fail a lot!).
How do you proceed if a finished product doesn’t match what was in your head?
I am very familiar with the frustration of not being able to achieve what I set out to do. About a quarter of my ideas fail and go back to the end of the list. I typically continue to push forward by scrapping the whole placement of the props and reconstruct the scene to achieve the same idea. The persistence stems from my process. I have a very clear image of the final photo in my head when I start working on the scene. The image is my north star, and I try to reverse-engineer how to make it happen, and I spend a lot of time figuring out how to overcome technical difficulties to bring that image to life. This is why my pictures of miniature scenes typically take about two to three weeks to finish.