Paolo Ventura's new book ''War Souvenir'' -- The photographer uses action figures and dolls to portray scenes from World War II

By Gilbert Cruz
Updated June 02, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Debris-strewn battlefields, soldiers, and suicides are generally not the stuff of child’s play. Apparently photographer Paolo Ventura never got that memo, though, as he uses action figures and handmade dolls to re-create scenes from World War II Italy in War Souvenir (Contrasto, $30), in which he also concocts detailed backstories (”Lovers in the Bar Nazionale. Giovanni Degrada, the waiter, dies in the spring of 1944…”). ”My grandparents were always whispering stories in my ear about the war,” says Ventura, 37. ”I had these memories and I wanted to reshape them into a new reality…. With small-scale, there’s an ambiguity where you don’t know exactly what you are seeing.”