Moncton photographer's mini scenes grow into giant art project

·6 min read
On Day 150 of her Quarantine Project, LeBlanc posted this shot to celebrate an event called Lobster Roll Time, by 17 restaurants in Shediac.  (Jacinthe LeBlanc - image credit)
On Day 150 of her Quarantine Project, LeBlanc posted this shot to celebrate an event called Lobster Roll Time, by 17 restaurants in Shediac. (Jacinthe LeBlanc - image credit)

It started out as a challenge for members of Moncton's Focus Camera Club to shoot and post a new photograph every day for two weeks.

More than a year and 365 images later, Jacinthe LeBlanc's "Quarantine Project" is still going strong, much to the delight of a growing number of admirers of her captivating miniature dioramas.

The photo club asked members to "fill the frame" on Day 18 of LeBlanc's quarantine project. An extreme close up didn't really work with her miniatures, but she found a way around that. LeBlanc's daughter swam competitively so this shot takes her back to a lot of pre-pandemic time spent on pool decks.
The photo club asked members to "fill the frame" on Day 18 of LeBlanc's quarantine project. An extreme close up didn't really work with her miniatures, but she found a way around that. LeBlanc's daughter swam competitively so this shot takes her back to a lot of pre-pandemic time spent on pool decks.(Jacinthe LeBlanc)

"I would never have thought that people would actually enjoy these," said LeBlanc. "It's just my little kind of quirky world that I live in."

LeBlanc was "instantly hooked" on this new passion when she started creating miniature scenes in the winter of 2020.

For Day 327, LeBlanc created a box of "Pets de Soeurs" cereal, based on the traditional Acadian cinnamon roll treat, which translates to "nun farts."
For Day 327, LeBlanc created a box of "Pets de Soeurs" cereal, based on the traditional Acadian cinnamon roll treat, which translates to "nun farts."(Jacinthe LeBlanc)

It was quite a departure from the kind of pictures she was used to taking — crowd and action shots at Moncton Magic basketball games.

Photography is a sideline for the IT programmer, who works for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, creating and maintaining web applications.

For Day 104, LeBlanc sent some of her minis on an escape flight in a repurposed wasp's nest that had been removed by her her brother-in-law.
For Day 104, LeBlanc sent some of her minis on an escape flight in a repurposed wasp's nest that had been removed by her her brother-in-law.(Jacinthe LeBlanc)

She had bought herself a few sets of HO scale miniatures the previous Christmas. These are little people about the height of a dime.

HO scale is 3.5 mm to one foot. It's used for model toys such as train sets.

LeBlanc had time and creative energy on her hands to play around with them when basketball games were cancelled because of COVID-19.

On Day 212, Zones 1 and 5 were in Orange Phase, with restrictions on organized sports. LeBlanc had her minis playing pickleball, a favourite activity of her sister's.
On Day 212, Zones 1 and 5 were in Orange Phase, with restrictions on organized sports. LeBlanc had her minis playing pickleball, a favourite activity of her sister's.(Jacinthe LeBlanc)

She didn't share her photos with a wide audience — mainly just her friends on Facebook.

But people really seemed to like them.

"My friends started commenting on how much they were enjoying them and I was having fun too .... so I just decided to continue."

Day 345's shot featured a ski hill made of toilet paper rolls. "Nothing like being the first out after freshly groomed ski hills," wrote LeBlanc.
Day 345's shot featured a ski hill made of toilet paper rolls. "Nothing like being the first out after freshly groomed ski hills," wrote LeBlanc.(Jacinthe LeBlanc)

LeBlanc extended the project she'd started for the camera club's challenge to a month, then two months, then three, before eventually deciding she'd keep going until the end of the pandemic.

"I don't know what that looks like," she said, "but that's where I'm going."

She expects she'll keep it up for another few months at least, until she gets a COVID-19 vaccine.

LeBlanc issued an invitation to "jump in and lose yourself" on Day 337, as one of her minis contemplated a dip in a tropical iPhone swimming pool.
LeBlanc issued an invitation to "jump in and lose yourself" on Day 337, as one of her minis contemplated a dip in a tropical iPhone swimming pool.(Jacinthe LeBlanc)

These days she's constantly looking for something to shoot.

She finds inspiration everywhere — the news, her friends' social media posts, events and things she sees and hears.

One of her favourite shots sprung from an event Shediac was hosting.

LeBlanc posted this shot on July 12, 2020, the day after former U.S. President Donald Trump had worn a mask in public for the first time, saying she was hopeful masks might become mandatory for everyone. This is also the cover shot of the book she released last fall.
LeBlanc posted this shot on July 12, 2020, the day after former U.S. President Donald Trump had worn a mask in public for the first time, saying she was hopeful masks might become mandatory for everyone. This is also the cover shot of the book she released last fall.(Jacinthe LeBlanc)

LeBlanc borrowed a toy transport truck from a friend, grilled a hot dog roll to golden perfection and stuffed it with lobster.

She took one shot of a crowd of little people gathered around the truck and a separate one of the lobster roll and blended them together with photo editing software.

The end result is a diverse crowd of little people, beholding a lobster lover's dream — a semi-trailer sized lobster roll.

It can be quite a bit of work to get everything set up, said LeBlanc.

LeBlanc posted this picture on July 16, 2020, to mark the beginning of the first Canadian coronavirus vaccine trial.
LeBlanc posted this picture on July 16, 2020, to mark the beginning of the first Canadian coronavirus vaccine trial.(Jacinthe LeBlanc)

In the process, she's learned a lot about lighting, positioning and camera angles.

She takes 20 to 30 shots to get one final image.

The simplest scenes take about 20 minutes to finish. The more complicated ones take several hours.

LeBlanc doesn't mind.

"I truly enjoy it. When I get into it, it's fun. I kind of zone out. I'm in my own little bubble."

This image of Volkswagen van stamps was LeBlanc's answer to a Focus Camera Club challenge on Day 319 of her Quarantine Project to shoot something that starts with the letter V. She created an extra challenge for herself to include graphics and a Valentine's Day theme.
This image of Volkswagen van stamps was LeBlanc's answer to a Focus Camera Club challenge on Day 319 of her Quarantine Project to shoot something that starts with the letter V. She created an extra challenge for herself to include graphics and a Valentine's Day theme.(Jacinthe LeBlanc)

"Photographing mini people became for me an opportunity to escape from what was going on in the world," she wrote on her website.

It has also provided a creative outlet and an opportunity to revisit childhood.

"I love taking elements that don't belong in the scene and kind of repurposing these elements," she said, making an example of a broccoli stalk she turned into a tree.

LeBlanc's Day 117 shot was called "Falling in love around the broccoli tree."
LeBlanc's Day 117 shot was called "Falling in love around the broccoli tree."(Jacinthe LeBlanc)

She carved some initials in the "trunk", leaned a couple of mini bicycles against it and arranged two mini people kissing beneath the floret-bows.

"They make for funny pictures. That's the fun part I enjoy — making people laugh."

LeBlanc said she's been surprised and delighted by the response to her pictures.

"Sadly this is the reality of too many people nowadays," LeBlanc wrote with this post on Day 221.
"Sadly this is the reality of too many people nowadays," LeBlanc wrote with this post on Day 221.(Jacinthe LeBlanc)

Some people tell her the first thing they do each morning is check for her latest creation. She usually posts something early in the morning before she goes to work at 7 a.m.

"I think through these hard times it's kind of a little bit of sunshine maybe in their day."

After popular demand she put some of her images in a photo book last fall and sold a hundred copies just among her friend group.

About two dozen of her pictures will be on display starting in May at Café C'est la Vie on Main Street in Moncton.