“All the pictures have a very lonely feeling to them,” he said. “Even if they have more than one person in them, it’s ‘big world, little people.’ ”
But the mood isn’t “loneliness out of control,” he added. “It’s loneliness like it’s a beautiful feeling.”
Whether Hoover’s work is photography or digital art is a question his fans, and some detractors, have debated. Some online commenters have been nasty, attributing his success to parents who could afford to buy him expensive equipment. Others think he’s a hoax.
“It doesn’t really matter,” Hoover said of how people label his work. “It’s all art.”
He takes the criticism in stride as well. “That’s the Internet for you. Don’t feed the trolls.”
Whatever you call the images, his work reflects a sophisticated and complex relationship with the natural and human-made world. Hoover sat down at his computer to show a visitor the dozens of elements that go into each image.
“Slowly they’ve gotten more fantastical and magical,” he said. The productions, too, have become more complicated. One image, “Fly,” featuring a miniature Hoover clinging to a paper airplane in mid-air, involved a three-hour shoot. He suspended paper airplanes from strings, then suspended himself from a pole between two ladders. He then tiled together multiple takes of the large- and small-scale scenes, added shadows and blur effects, and adjusted the color.
“What I am doing always is really quite basic,” he said. “All the techniques stuff is Day 1 Photoshop.”
But to make a fantasy world believable is an arduous process. His mother said he will spend 8 to 10 hours, endlessly tweaking each image until he gets the desired effect.
As for what’s next, the young photographer remains undecided. With all the Internet buzz, he has begun to sell prints of his work. Beyond that, he has the summer ahead of him — flights of fancy to contemplate, trees to climb and conquer. He is thinking about an aerial photography project. Big adventures for a young man still navigating a small world.
“I don’t have a plan or anything,” he said. “I’m not sure if I’ll consider myself a photographer forever.”