Brickvention Charity Silent Auction

Last weekend Toy Photographers and #brickstameet held the Brickvention Charity Silent Auction of LEGO photography, raising money for the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. With 27 amazing photographs, by 17 artists, from 11 different countries, I knew it would be a success. But there’s know way I could’ve predicted some of the wonderful moments that happened.

Here are some of my personal highlights from the weekend.
*As the Brickvention Charity Silent Auction is about the art and the charity I’ve avoided naming specific artists in my highlights. All of you helped to make this event a success and a memorable weekend for me.

Recognizing

Visitors to the Charity Silent Auction recognising some of the artists hanging on the walls. Whether it was by their photo or by their name, it was cool to know that toy photographers had reached those outside our toy photographers’ walls. Officials, exhibitors, builders and visitors to the Brickvention knew who you were!

Discovering

Of course some of the artists were new to the visitors of the gallery. However, looking up the Instagram account that was listed below their photograph often resulted in enraptured scrolling, a race to place a bid for a newly discovered favourite artist, and undoubtedly a follow!

Brickvention Charity Silent Auction
Brickvention Charity Silent Auction

Must have I

“Oh, I’ve really got to have a photo by that person!” Artists were not only recognised, they were wanted! One visitor to the gallery just had to have a photograph by a particular artist, even coming back throughout the day a number of times to raise the bidding if their last bid had been beaten! I’m happy to say they won the photograph from the artist they really wanted!

Brickvention Charity Silent Auction
Brickvention Charity Silent Auction

Must have II

The group of bidders hovering around the table with the bid sheets as the Saturday auction drew to close, periodically checking their bids were still the highest. And the audible excitement that the photos they’d bid on were theirs. Yes, photos! Some people bid on and won two or three photos!

Brickvention Charity Silent Auction
Brickvention Charity Silent Auction

Must have III

The disappointment in being outbid on a photo, and the offer to match the wining bid for a chance to own a LEGO photo. One bidder really wanted to win a particular photo, so offered to pay the same money as the person who’d outbid them to have another print of that photo posted to them!

Brickvention Charity Silent Auction
Brickvention Charity Silent Auction

Inspiring

Inspiring and open up a whole new LEGO world to people.

Brickvention Charity Silent Auction: Juan De Castro's inspired LEGO photograph
“Inspired by all the Lego minifigure photography at Brickvention 2018, I took a photo of my MOC” Juan De Castro

One exhibitor wrote this on the Brickvention Exhibitors Facebook page, together with a photo they’d taken. You’ve got to remember that Brickvention is predominantly a convention for builders to display their MOCs. Taking photographs of LEGO as art is new to a lot of the attendees and exhibitors. To hear that the Brickvention Charity Silent Auction inspired Juan to give it a go and share it was super cool. Thanks for the highlight Juan.

Thank you

Thanks to all the artists that contributed their works, we’re proud to announce that you helped us raise $875 for the Royal Children’s Hospital over the weekend! Yes, there are still a few expenses to come out of that number, but the result is incredible. Thank you.

– Brett

Andrew (@cheepjokes) and I would like to once again thank all those who contributed their art. We’d also like to thank those who put their hands in their pockets for art and the Royal Children’s Hospital. I’d like to thank those who provided all these wonderful highlights for me. And I’d like to thank Andrew for all his hard work in helping make this year’s Brickvention Charity Silent Auction such a success, and for the spare bed!

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Art and Politics

Brett Wilson asked a while ago if conscience should go into toy photography. I think it should, and it should also go into art (and obviously into toy photography that aspires to be art).

Why don’t I like political art?

However, there is one kind of art that usually does not do the job for me. It’s what they call political art. Most political art is very efficient in getting its message across. A Parthenon made of forbidden books: Once you know all these books were sometimes forbidden somewhere, it seems to be hard to misunderstand this work. The artist may mean well, but I am not satisfied.

I do not care for the good intentions of the artist. I care for the kind of art that stays with you because you can never really figure it out although you would really like to.

“Great art poses questions, and the more questions it poses, the better it is.” Robert Longo

“Trash Island” (Study)

What’s art?

For lack of a better explanation, let me start from this one: A work of art is a self-referential configuration (of elements) that challenges the recipient to become active. The recipient’s activity in the face of the work of art can be called interpretation. It encompasses dancing, playing, singing (in music); making sense of forms and colours (in the fine arts); filling narrative gaps, reciting, making sense of rhyme and rhythm (in literature) – among other things. These activities are relevant to the sphere of human action, partly in that they change the way we see and understand our world.*

As far as I understand, seeing art like this implies two more things:

1. There is no meaningless element in a work of art. Everything you hear, read or see is an ‘element’ that contributes to the constitution of the work. Every word counts. The choice of instruments makes a difference. There is no saying, “oh, that’s just the picture’s background and can be ignored.”

2. Because everything means something, works of art are complex. Due to this complexity, the interpretive activities never come to an end: orchestras can play a symphony again and again, re-reading a book opens new perspectives, revisiting an art exhibition is quite rewarding.

“Untitled”

Art’s social relevance

Based on this, I would like to suggest that conscience does have a place in art because art is tightly interwoven with our everyday lives. If art helps mould the ways we exist in this world, then there is always a political, social, moral aspect to it. Each work chooses to be avantgarde or conservative, a challenge to or a confirmation of our worldviews.

I might like the moral but not the art

If interpretation really never comes to an end, this might explain the tendency of totalitarian states to subjugate art. Because art is everything but totalitarian. On the other hand, the work of art that succeeds in getting the political message across in the most efficient way might not be a great work. It often brings interpretation to a quick halt.

tms

———-

* These ideas are not mine. This is my attempt to give a short summary of the most intelligent text about art I have read so far: Georg W. Bertram, Kunst als menschliche Praxis. Eine Ästhetik, Frankfurt/Main, 2014. (Apparently also available in Spanish but not in English.) Based on Bertram’s description, it should also be possible to decide whether a toy photograph is a work of art – but that’s an altogether different question.

Toy Photographers Podcast 03 – Brett Wilson Interview

It’s Sunday, so you know what that means: Another episode of the Toy Photographers Podcast is now available!

This week, we have another interview episode, featuring our very own Brett Wilson! Brett and I had a fantastic conversation, covering how he got into toy photography, what it’s like having such a famous SigFig, how much luck has contributed to his many opportunities, and so much more!

The episode is live now on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and other podcatchers, or you can listen to it right here:

Thank You

I want to thank you all for the great reception you’ve given the podcast so far! It truly means a lot to me. This first month of the podcast has been even more successful than I could have hoped, and I have some really exciting episodes planned!

There won’t be a new episode next week, but check back in on Sunday, February 4th for my interview with The Toys That Made Us creator Brian Volk-Weiss!

Until then, enjoy this week’s episode, and please either leave your thoughts and comments below, or shoot us an email at toyphotographypod@gmail.com!

-James

If you’ve made it this far, come continue the discussion over at our G+ community! And while you’re at it, subscribe to our weekly email round up so that you never miss a post!

Review: Ahch-To Island Training

After having seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi multiple times in theatres, I came away from the experience wanting to explore the new grizzly cynical old Luke Skywalker in my artwork. Of all the characters from the original trilogy, his story arc is by far the most interesting to me. So I went in search of a LEGO set that contained an aged-Luke minifig, and settled on the Ahch-To Island Training set.

Warning: Contains very minor spoilers, but nothing plot revealing.

When it arrived, I handed the building of the set off to my 8 year old son, Zeke, a proud LEGO and Star Wars fan himself, so I could get his opinions of the set from his perspective, as well as my own.

This is our review.

What’s In The Box?

The set itself is small, and at 241 pieces is a quick build. The model is essentially one of the stone huts that Luke resides in on the island of Ahch-To. Inside the hut are a lot of details that are interesting: a bed, cooking supplies etc. All of the things one would expect to be inside a small occupied hut.

There are a couple simple moving parts. The back of the hut is left open for access to play, but the roof also comes off for easier access to the internals of the hut. A small part of one of the wall collapses as well. I suspect both are intended to allow for the simulation when Rey’s hut force-explodes. However it does allow for easy access for lights and smoke effects, which makes it intriguing for us toy photographers.

There is also a rock that can be split open. Remember the scene where Rey uses a lightsaber to slice open a large rock? I believe the rock in the set is supposed to allow one to simulate that. However this leads us to one of the many puzzling aspects of this model.

Model in my studio, as built.

Cons

In general, this model looks very little like the scenes from the movie. Aside from the three minifigures of Luke, Rey, and a porg, it feels like the model was designed based on a vague description of the location, and not from scenes from the actual movie. Basically if you handed me the model without the minifigs and the box art, I would never guess that the model was from Ahch-To (I would likely guess a left over model from Force Awakens that is supposed to be from the planet Takodana). The model makes the hut look like it is built with large light coloured rocks, but in the movie it is made from piles of small dark grey stones. The door in the movie is an impressively solid chunk of metal, but the model has the door made from a flimsy piece of cloth.

Oh, may I complain a bit more about that rock that Rey slices open with the lightsaber? In the movie she slices thru a monolithic solid chunk of rock. The model gives a relatively small sphere, that is hollow and contains a gem inside. Where the gem fits into things is a mystery to me – maybe it is something from the director’s cut, certainly not movie accurate. They could have easily made a model where that rock was realistic, and not attached to the hut so it could be located father away, but they didn’t, and that is a shame.

Pros

The true value of this set is in the minifigs. The Luke minifig comes off as the rough character that Luke has truly become.

Luke Skywalker on Ahch-To

Rey looks determined and ready to jump into action. Rey’s hair piece has that cute little 3-bun combo, which is realistic to the movie. It does make it hard to turn her head for posing, but no more than is normal for any minifig with longer hair.

Rey is ready for action, despite the harsh rain of Ahch-To Island

The porg is adorable – I just wish they included a couple more of them. Both Rey and Luke comes with there own staffs, and there is one blue lightsaber to share between them.

Conclusion

From the perspective of toy photography this set is a hot mess of inconsistency. The set does allow easy access to the hut so lights can be added very easily. However it would be almost impossible to get the look and feel from the movie by using this set.

So my advice for the toy photographer is to pick yourself up a set, pull out the minifigs for your own collection, and then immediately drop the rest off in your kids toy box. They are going to enjoy it way more than you are.

About that kids toy box, here are Zeke’s impressions of the set, presented in question/answer format

How hard is it to build?
Not very hard. Easy build. Fun to build.

What do you think of the set?
It’s awesome!

What makes it awesome?
There’s a mechanism that makes one of the rocks pop up and also there is one of those pieces that spin so you can cut open a boulder.

Would you want one for yourself?

Yes!

What is your least favourite thing?
The door isn’t right, and the bed takes up too much space.

Note: Rest assured Zeke received his own set, complete with minifigs, as thanks for helping with the review of this set. He is currently in his room exploring Ahch-To with the intense imagination that only an 8 year old can provide.

The Toys That Made Us

Have you seen the latest docuseries from Netflix: The Toys That Made Us? If not, you really need to put down what you’re doing and immediately binge watch all fours episodes of season one. 

Rarely have I seen a TV series so perfectly aimed at toy photographers and toy collectors. Ok, I will admit I don’t watch a lot of tv so maybe I’m not the best judge. But I can assure you, you will enjoy at least one of the first four episodes. 

The Premise

The premise of the show is to take a deep dive into eight different toy lines. These are the iconic toy lines that have become cultural touch stones for kids who grew up in the 70’s,  80’s and 90’s. If you’re of a certain age, these are the toys that you grew up with. These are the toys that made us. Each episode deals with an individual toy line. In Season 1 the director takes us on a deep dive into the following toy lines: StarWars, Barbie, He-Man and G.I. Joe.

Each episode is a mix of live action recreations, interviews with the original toy designers and period commercials. I especially enjoyed the beautiful close ups of the original toys sprinkled throughout each episode. Sure this is a nice walk down memory lane, but the real entertainment comes from the behind the scenes stories. This is when we get a glimpse at the the people who invented these cultural icons and their stories; both funny and tragic. 

What I Learned

I learned plenty of amusing facts about the Toys That Made Us including the origins if kit bashing. That they aren’t dolls, they’re action figures! That Kenner’s production of Star Wars toys was so behind the demand that first Christmas, that they actually sold empty boxes that could be gifted. The actual toys weren’t delivered until a few months later. Talk about an unconventional solution to a problem! 

I also learned that Barbie has a very risqué origin story. Or that the world of retail toy sales is so cut throat? There are many more juicy tidbits of information to be gleaned from interviews with the people who where at the center of the action. I especially enjoyed watching the original designers reminisce about how they created the Masters of the Universe toy line. Even after all these years, you can tell they had a ball doing their jobs.

Conclusion

I wonder if these toy designers ever dreamed that their creations would inspire an entire generation of adults to keep playing with their childhood toys well into adulthood? In many ways, the toy photography hobby is a wonderful excuse to collect the toys we missed out on as kids, or to reconnect with our childhood favorites. This eight part series is a great way to celebrate as well as acknowledge their influence on us. For me it was a great place to learn about toy lines I wasn’t familiar with like He-Man. I’m afraid to admit I didn’t know who Skeletor was before I saw the episode on He-Man. By the time these toys came out, I was on my way to university. It seems I missed out on all the fun!

The crew behind the Toys That Made Us are hard at work on season two. The next four episodes will feature LEGO, Transformers, Hello Kitty and Star Trek. Personally I can’t wait until these episodes come out. Its hard to know which episode I will be looking forward to the most: LEGO or Star Trek? Or maybe its Transformers and Hello Kitty? No matter, I’m really looking forward to them all!

Shelly

Have you seen the Toys That Made Us? If so, what was your favorite episode? What was the coolest thing you learned? 

Be sure to tune into our Podcast on February 4th when James Garcia interviews the creator of The Toys That Made Us, Brian Volk-Weiss

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Toy photography without the toy

Have you ever taken a toy photo without the toy?

Well, maybe not quite without the toy, but certainly without the figure.

As toy photographers, we so often photograph figures. I mean, that’s the whole point right? Telling stories about and with our toy figures, be it LEGO, Playmobil, Hasbro, Hot Toys or any other kind of toy you photograph! We are photographers and story tellers and we love our figures.

That said, I wanted to try something different. So I started an ongoing series of photos featuring objects alone, without a figure, or only showing very small parts of the figure (a hand, for example). I wanted to tell some stories without characters. I wanted to showcase some of the wonderful accessories that are available to us.

For example, this magnifying glass is one of my favourite accessories in LEGO. I mean, it actually magnifies (a bit)! So many awesome ways to use this!

A magnifying glass that actually magnifies? How awesome.

#nofigurefriday

I thought it would be cool to start a new hashtag to go alongside this idea of photographing our toy accessories.  So I’d like to introduce #nofigurefriday.

This Friday why not join in the fun over on G+, Instagram or whatever social media channel you use, and take a toy photograph without the figure.

Pick your favourite accessory, the one that speaks to you, snap a photo and post it up with the hashtag!

Maybe it will be a tiny cup of coffee…

 

A happy cup of coffee left on the side.

or your favourite hat…

Where there’s a cowboy hat, there’s probably a spaceman somewhere.

or maybe even some tasty sushi.

Everyone loves a little sushi!

You decide!

I’ll be watching the hashtag over the day so I’d love to see your photos appear on G+ or Instagram!

– Lizzi
Stepping on Bricks

Per centum sign, Ampersand, Hash, Question mark, Exclamation point, Star, Six Images of Agony

I’m not going to write some narrative conveying a tale, I’m just going to, as requested, let the images speak for themselves and see what feelings they’ll bring to life in you. Now, I still feel I have to convey what kind of thoughts and words come to my mind viewing these images (or shooting them be truthful). I’d be bold enough to quote Green Day and “Just f***ing swear a lot.” So here is me cursing, embracing these painful six images of agony, and just in case this blog doesn’t approve of my colourful language, I won’t say it, I’ll just spell it out: Per centum sign, ampersand, hash, question mark, exclamation point, star.

Per centum sign
Ampersand
Hash
Question mark
Exclamation point
Star

 

//Christoffer

Donate Checkmate

With Melbourne’s Brickvention, Australia’s premier LEGO fan convention, just around the corner, it’s time to say thank you. This year’s Charity Silent Auction is looking like it’s going to be bigger than ever. Thanks to the generosity of the community.

This year, Toy Photographers and #brickstameet have buddied up to organise a silent auction of LEGO photographs to raise money for the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. Andrew (@cheepjokes) and I have been busy chasing artists, collecting submissions, printing art, printing bidding forms, and designing the layout of the photographs submitted for the action. Actually, we will be having two auctions, one on Saturday and another on Sunday. Continue reading Donate Checkmate

No Child’s Play

Shelly has asked us if we were willing to write a guest entry for her blog Toy Photographers. Apparently, the most amazing photographers gather here. We have certainly come to value the excellent contributions and pictures of the team and their guest bloggers. So, yes, we thought, we’d contribute something too.

We – that is Mic and Sören from Dresden, Germany. For the last three years we have created and photographed funny scenes with mini figures.

But what could we write about? What is there that could be interesting enough about us that someone else would want to read about it? Wow … even thinking about that is hard work. Pretty much all of last year has been hard work. One thing came to another and we were practically rolled over by the events. But first things first. Continue reading No Child’s Play

Toy Photographers Podcast 02 – “Play” with Kristina Alexanderson

Thank you to everyone who listened to our debut episode of the Toy Photographers Podcast last week! If you haven’t heard it yet, you can listen to it here.

This week on the podcast, I’m joined by Kristina Alexanderson for our very first “theme” episode. These will be slightly different than the interview episodes; Kristina and I will have picked a specific theme to photograph, and taken a photo with that theme in mind. We then jump on Skype, share our photos with one another, and discuss what we see, both literally and in terms of how it relates to the theme we picked.

The theme for this week’s episode was “Play,” something I think all toy photographers have considered when snapping shots of LEGO or action figures! Continue reading Toy Photographers Podcast 02 – “Play” with Kristina Alexanderson