Now, nearly 20 years later, Marwencol’s characters are still living out life-or-death dramas, drinking, smoking, being hung or decapitated, finding love, making love, even playing with their own small-scale action figures. Complex dramas unfold, as if the first-season finale of Big Little Lies were mashed up with the basement tavern scene from Inglourious Basterds. Hogancamp poses and photographs climactic moments, preserving the events of the town frame by frame.
In the early 2000s, he was pulling the soldiers’ tiny model Jeep along roadsides near Kingston’s Rondout—in order to weather the tires and make them look more authentic—when a photographer approached him. Thus, his “discovery”: The photographer led Hogancamp to a spot in Esopus magazine in 2005, which begot a show at New York’s White Columns in 2006. Other exhibitions followed.
And Hogancamp’s almost mythic story will soon find much wider audiences. Inspired by Malmberg’s documentary, Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis (the “Back to the Future” trilogy; Forrest Gump) has turned the artist’s biography into a narrative feature, Welcome to Marwen, debuting in late December. Steve Carell is Hogancamp; Leslie Mann, Janelle Monaé, and Diane Kruger are among his posse of temptresses, commandos, and sweethearts.