These Tiny Scenes Are the Mini Office Dramas You Wish You Saw

It’s been quite a while since we last spoke to Derrick Lin, the creative mind behind the photography series Miniature Office. Since then Derrick’s series – which pokes fun at the annoyances of modern office life – has been published as a book called Work, Figuratively Speaking, and is now on the cusp of its fifth birthday.

Despite, or perhaps because of, this long project life, Derrick continues to churn out poignant, silly and fresh scenes for our enjoyment. From desktop-sized Golden Gate Bridges surrounded by foggy swirls of cotton to tiny people dwarfed by towering stacks of notebooks, Derrick’s images of assembled figurines never fail to capture our interest.


We managed to drag him out of the office to chat about achieving dreams, his creative process, and storing five years’ worth of tiny dioramas.

The Plus: Last time we spoke to you, you were talking about compiling your creations into a book. How did it feel to turn that dream into reality?
Derrick Lin:
I feel I completed something impossible! Many life events happened during the time of book creation: new job, cross country move, etc. Having to juggle all of those added difficulty but at the same time new inspirations for my book. I still can’t believe it every time someone from across the globe sends me a picture of my book. It is truly a bucket list item I never expected to have and then achieve.

TP: Your project’s been ongoing for some years now. What would you say is the most valuable thing you’ve learned from it?
I am about to celebrate my fifth anniversary of this project and by far the most valuable thing I have learned from this project is perspective. Even to this day I am constantly reminded that many events I encounter, even the most stressful or frustrating ones, can be seen in a different light.


TP: What’s the worst moment you’ve experienced in office life?
Haha. It’s very hard to name just one but I would say being called to a conference room and told I was being let go was one of the toughest moments. But everything worked out.

TP: What’s the best moment?
The best moment to me was after a long, tedious project, team members came to me individually and told me I did a great job. Nothing beats having a supportive team!


TP: How do you think this project has changed throughout its long life?
After five years, I think I have put more emphasis on the mood and aesthetics in my photography. I have developed my own preferred color palette and temperature as well as framing. And in terms of topics, I also focus more on the more subtle, self-reflective territories of thoughts and feelings.

TP: Your miniatures all come across as having a kind of sincere, nostalgic touch. How do you come up with your ideas?
I’m very happy to hear that! I have always aimed for an organic style in my photography so the ideas are my personal experience of some of the most universal scenarios many of us all share. I ask myself what does a certain emotion I have when going through the scenario “feel like”. I try to find visual analogy or metaphor of it whether in an exaggerated and humorous way or an evocative, heartfelt style. I have learned to filter, edit, and gate my content so only the ones I really like get to be posted on my Instagram.


TP: How’s each production’s process?
I have a very thorough process (in my own opinion) and it involves the topic, the caption, and the visual. In each photo, all three elements are essential and a photo idea can start from any of the three but the topic is often where I start with.

When I experience something in my work or personal life, I try to look at it from a different perspective and inject humor or emphasize on the emotion. I then craft the caption and start preparing the props for the photo shoot. The photo shoot typically takes about multiple hour-long sessions and 100+ takes. The whole process nowadays takes about two to three weeks for one picture to be planned and finalized.


TP: You have created a huge number of tiny objects, where do you keep all of them?
They are everywhere in my apartment! I have amassed thousands of figures and props over the years. I have a system where I can easily see and access the props and it’s at the expense of not having a tidy apartment…

TP: In your opinion, how important is it to be an observer in everyday life?
My series has been a creative way for me to be aware of my thoughts and feelings. Over the years it has been a big help for my mental health. I have been frequently told by my followers that it resonates with them. Many say it makes them smile and even cry. Five years later, I have become a much more relaxed and calm (hopefully expressive too) person so I would say it is very important.


TP: You mentioned that you could see yourself being ready for a new creative challenge eventually. Do you still forsee the end, or will you be sticking with your miniatures?
I don’t necessarily see my project as something I have to evolve out of. After all it has been a loose journal of my life and a way for me to creatively express myself. I have tried very hard not to repeat myself in every photography if you scroll through my pictures you will see no pictures are the same: framing, lighting, topic, etc.This challenge of always coming up something new has kept my series fun and fresh for me. My criteria for my series is it has to be fun for me. I don’t know how the series will evolve and I don’t know when it will end but so far it is still a lot of fun for me to do.

TP: What’s the next post-book milestone?
After the book I have been releasing my individual art prints on my Society6 store by popular request. It’s incredible to think my art is now going into people’s lives. I am exploring new ways to evolve my series and at the same time I am continuing to explore collaboration opportunities with brands around the world and who knows, something exciting is coming soon!