Jan. 7, 2014 at 2:30 PM ET
Pierre Javelle and Akiko Ida met as photography students at the School for Fine Arts in Paris, but they quickly realized they shared another love besides art — food!
The two friends began working on their project "Minimiam" in 2002, creating photos that show tiny people interacting on backdrops of giant pieces of food, like fruits, nuts, vegetables, and sweets. The flip-flopping of sizes creates a fun but dramatic look, and the whimsical pictures have become big hits online, with many recently going viral.
At first, Ida explained to TODAY, they shot the images with a Polaroid camera. But the advent of digital film gave them the ability to create multiple layers. “That allowed us to evolve the characters,” he says.
Still, he is quick to note that the basic process for coming up with a scene, characters, and backdrop has not changed much since the two artists began working: “The ideas must remain simple and accessible.”
Since there are no captions or dialogue bubbles on the photos, the "storylines" have to be easy to understand.
The images often play off of well-known pop culture moments or iconic photographs, such as the moon landing or New York City construction workers eating lunch on a bridge. Some are domestic scenes, some involve sports, and a few — like one of people standing around looking at stacks of peanuts the way museum-goers look at pieces of art — poke fun at themselves.
The pair of professional photographers, who work on Minimiam together as a side project from their regular paid gigs, say that simply putting food in a picture means it might not get taken seriously. But the sense of fun and whimsy come through for just about any viewer.
“When they see the images, they change their perspectives,” Ida says. “At exhibits, people have come up to me and thanked me for making them happy. That’s a great gift – and also a kind of responsibility.”