The Six Image Narrative

Welcome to a new series on the toy photographers blog called: The Six Image Narrative. We want to give you the opportunity to be featured on the blog and showcase your own six image narrative. What is a six image narrative you ask? It’s a story that can only be told in six images.

We realize that not everyone is a word smith. We also realize that time is short and that we don’t always have time to devote to reading a 2,000 word blog post.  So Brett and I decided to try something new on the blog and showcase even more photography!

The Concept

The idea for the six image narrative came out of a LensWork podcast I listened to recently. It’s a variation on a contest they’re running called “Seeing in Sixes“. The idea behind this new series is to create a six image narrative that somehow tells a greater, more complete story than one image can. Your story can be linear story, it can be a thematic story, it can be a story held together by technique. Whatever method you use, by combing six images, you’re able to tell a new story.  The hope is that you create a story that has a greater impact than only one single photo can have.

Even though we’re a photo blog, I know we can get a little wordy. This new series is designed to be a respite. We want to create a little oasis thats only goal is to spotlight toy photography excellence. We’ve been talking about concepts like the Red Thread, creating meaning through metaphor in your imagery and the importance of telling stories for years now. This is a chance for you to show us, and yourself, what these concepts look like in practice.

The Challenge

You’re probably thinking this is easy! No brainer! I have six images that are a shoe in for this. And you know what? I thought the same thing. But when I tried to complete this challenge myself, the idea of my work didn’t match what was actually in my image files.

I always thought I took a lot of photos of boats and reflections on water. But when I looked through my work from the past three years to find six appropriate images, I didn’t have enough to work from. Weird how your mind plays tricks on you.

I’m a big believer in looking back over my work and finding connections. I enjoy discovering those unconscious threads that are often simply lying around waiting to be discovered. I also feel that in a world of social media where we’re presenting single images that we need to create opportunities to make a larger statement. And that is what this challenge is all about. I want to encourage you to do the same.

Maybe it will lead to a book you can give to friends or family, or a coffee shop show, or a contest entry. You never know what you have until you look through your work and create a series with intention. Sometimes this means creating new images to flesh out your story. Or maybe this challenge will send you in a completly new direction. Maybe you will be like me and discover that you aren’t taking the photos you thought you were!

The Guidelines

If you would like to participate in the Six Image Narrative, here are the guidelines:

  • Six images, no more and no less.
  • There needs to be a clear connection between the images. (Style, content, story, etc.)
  • The sum of the group is greater than the individual image.
  • Bonus points for allegory
  • Quality images. We want to see your best work.
  • Short titles are allowed
  • You may include one to two paragraphs of explanation that can include: quotes, poem, narrative, description, etc.
  • This is a toy photography blog, so don’t forget the toys!
  • The work is your own.

Once you’ve created your six image narrative head over to our Contact page and drop me an email with a link to where I can view your images. This can be done easily through Google Photos or your preferred photo sharing service.

 

We hope you’re as excited about this new series as we are! Since we’re a photography blog, the idea of setting aside a day a week to showcase the work of the community is really exciting to us. So get those thinking caps (or in Brett’s case his undies) on and start looking through your images! We’re looking forward to reviewing your submissions and sharing them with the community.

Shelly

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our e-mail list where you will receive a weekly roundup of the weeks posts. 

A Reflection

I shot my first toy photos 9 years ago.

I was 17, in Ms. Jen’s 11th grade English class, and chose to illustrate scenes of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying from a list of project options.

I really knew nothing about photography, but was slowly discovering that I liked it.

I outlined a few key scenes from the book and set out to photograph them. To my knowledge, I had never knowingly seen a toy photograph, nor did I think of what I was doing in any sort of category. All I knew was that it seemed the best way to represent a burning barn, brothers, horse drawn carriage, fish mother and vultures was through toys and maquettes.

The resulting photos weren’t what I’d now call good, but at the time I was quite happy with what I’d managed to create with minimal supplies and a point and shoot camera.

So now, 9 years later, some 6 or so years since I’ve actually considered myself a toy photographer, I’ve recreated those images with better technical knowledge and artistic vision.


“My mother is a fish.”

“The barn went swirling up in little red pieces against the sky and the stars moved backward.”

“Motionless, the tall buzzards hang in soaring circles, the clouds giving them an illusion of retrograde.”

“The wagon went on…the wagon creaks on.”

“Jewel is my brother. Cash is my brother. Cash has a broken leg. We fixed Cash’s leg so it doesn’t hurt. Cash is my brother. Jewel is my brother too, but he hasn’t got a broken leg.”

“Tell the same story again and again in an interesting way.”

-Christopher Niemann


Do you ever revisit your old images or even reshoot the same figures or scenes? Tell us about it in a comment below.

~ Jennifer Nichole Wells

5 Amazing Things About the San Francisco Toy Photography Safari

The Lead Up

Ok, so I was super nervoucited. (Thanks to a seven year old at my son’s school for teaching me that awesome word!). I’ve been collecting LEGO minifigures and taking pictures of them for almost two years now, and I was vaguely aware of Toy Safaris from mentions in my Instagram and Google+ feeds as well as a few blogs I follow. I had little idea of what to expect, so my mind was spinning with “who’s gonna be there?,” “what will it be like?,” “which toys will I bring?,” “will I be the only dullard using an iPhone 7 and relatively ignorant about photography?,” and “will this event hit my list of the top ten most awkward things I’ve ever done?” (Please don’t ask about that list… trust me.)

The Launch

Thursday evening. Rush hour traffic. Google+ Headquarters. How could I say no? Pamela from Google greeted us with warmth and headed us to a secret room a few buildings and floors away. I walked in. I saw pizza, salad, beer, and boxes of LEGO. Oh, and about twenty people who had camera bags and, you know, the range of expressions you see at a meet and greet. The promise of new LEGO helped calm my “goodness this is awkward” nerves, and I was relieved when Carter Gibson, Shelly Corbett, and other luminaries welcomed me. The room seemed to have no obvious serial killers who live in their mom’s basement or egos the size of the world’s biggest LEGO build. So far so good, I thought. I don’t typically enjoy casual conversation with strangers and it was odd to be having it with the real human beings who, it turns out, actually exist behind the many toy photography accounts I follow on social media.  We ate, talked, took some pics, traded toys, and promised to see each other in the morning. I drove home thinking: Ok, I can do this. And did I mention free new toys?

The Sharing

We shared toys and laughs and ideas and we even collaborated on photos. Collaborating on a toy photography shot was all new to me and it was such a fun (if slightly intimidating) way to push beyond my comfort zone. Julien (Ballou34) gets virtually all of the credit for this scene and our shots of it were fun to compare. As a group we also shared some of our histories and connections and dreams. And I’m so grateful for how much these wonderful people shared with me about their art! Ballou34 taught me so much about the use of light and aperture. Maelick (Reiterlied) taught me to expect the unexpected and take things a little less seriously with his photo bombs of an adorable LEGO dinosaur. Shelly taught me about water shots and how to get these adventurous 2″ figs to float. Kiwi (Wikitoybox) taught me about the magical world of resin poop. Dennis (krash_override) and Melisa (lizzybelle9) shared incredible custom toys. Cindy (coneydogg) and Leila (brickandmordor) reminded me to laugh. A lot. Still in disbelief? Check out this fantastic video of the event created by Travin (saiyanranger).

Life’s a picnic… no matter where you are. (Photo collaboration with Julien Ballester)
The Photos

So it turns out we took photos. Lots of photos. I loved our time at Sutro Baths best. It’s an amazing spot in San Francisco right on the coast of the Pacific. I adore taking nature pics, and especially shots with water. I also love concrete and decay. So this was basically a perfect spot for me and my toys. In fact, the whole safari gave me a toy photography lens on the Bay Area. It was fun to see familiar spots through that angle and really cool to shoot in places new to me. Each person had so many toys (and a lot more than just LEGO) and such fun ways of traveling with them. As I mentioned, this is one generous group of beautiful toy geeks. I loved the privilege of watching others set up scenes, shoot, chat about scenes and shooting, and then shoot some more.  

Surfs up at the Sutro Baths.
Josh, Austin and Eric in action at Fort Baker.
The Goodbyes

So I’m this fifty year old gay guy all married up to this incredible man I’ve been with for nearly half my life. We have a fantastic seven year old son who we adopted into our family just last year here in the Bay Area. As you can imagine, I’m not out drinking beer with grownups very often anymore. I walked into this adventure a little apprehensive and walked out delighted. I went deeper with my photography. I had time to focus and experiment. But much more than the pics and minifigs, it is hard to describe how connected I feel to this group after a weekend of shooting plastic. Most of the group had joined together for previous safaris in Vegas and Seattle (and others in Hamburg and London and/or beyond). I was new to the group and yet welcomed in like I’d been along the whole time. I’m in awe of the kindness, generosity, humor and talent of this group. I’m also certain I’ve made some lifelong friendships. And to think it all started with a few LEGO Simpson minifigs and an iPhone 5.

Sisters at sea – Sausalito Marina.

Doug Gary

So how about you? Whether you’re a toy photography fan or a photographer, what toys first grabbed you? What sorts of shots do you love?

In the shadows.

Connecting more than plastic bricks

Brickstameet

It’s brickstameet time again! And this time, we’re connecting more than just plastic bricks and taking photos of them. We’re connecting with our friend from across the ditch.

This Melbourne #brickstameet will have an international flavour. Well, maybe a “pineapple lumps” flavour from across the Tasman Sea?

We’re excited to have @harleyquin from New Zealand join us in Melbourne as we wander the streets shooting LEGO.

brickstameet
“I’m here to take choice photos bro!”

Shelly wrote, “My personal goal of these events is to put the ‘social’ back in social media”, in her post about the San Francisco Toy Photographers meet-up. I bloody love this goal of Shelly’s. I think we should all strive to put the social back into social media.

Putting the meet into brickstameet

LEGO and toy photography meet-ups are so much more than LEGO and toy photography meet-ups. They’re an opportunity to physically connect with peers. They’re a chance to chat with friends made through shared passions and pastimes. It’s an occasion to talk, share, learn, teach and laugh.

You are awake my child
The storm is real
Summon all the souls
The world is real
Beastwars – Shadow King

This will be the 5th brickstameet since they started in 2015: Federation Square, Hosier Lane and Melbourne’s laneways, Botanical Gardens, Brickvention, and now Docklands and Southbank. Each meet-up sees familiar and new faces, kids with their parents in tow and friends with their kids in tow.

By the 3rd meet-up, I’d pretty much put my camera away and focussed on chatting, catching up with previous attendees, meeting new LEGO photographers, and helping out with setting up photos.

Like every brickstameet, this one will be no different in that I’ll agonise over toy choices. And like the previous couple, these choices might not see the light of day. But just because they won’t be used as fodder, it doesn’t mean they won’t be present for a great day.

-Brett

If you’re in Melbourne on the 24th of June, or if you can make it to Melbourne like CJ, we’d love to socialise with you. We might even squeeze in some toy photography! All the details can be found here.

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Why? The 3 Things I love Most About Lego Photography

Hello Toy Photographers! My name is Kenton Anderson.

Me in lego form.

Since this is my first post on Toy Photographers let me introduce myself. I am a Full-Time Creative Director/Part-Time Photographer living in Salt Lake City, UT. I have been a photographer for about 10 years now and up until recently have mostly done weddings and family photography. Only recently have I discovered Lego Photography and have quickly become obsessed.

Lego photography is so much more relaxing…

There are a lot of reasons why I enjoy photographing toys, but here’s my top 3.

1. It’s Fun

I like to think of toy photography as a semi-socially acceptable way to still be a kid 🙂 I say semi-socially acceptable because there are some haters out there, but they are just too immature to still be kids at heart, or maybe it’s just that they where deprived kids who’s parents never gave them the simple joy of playing with Lego!

For me, I think the fact that I played a lot with Lego as a kid is one of the reasons I find photographing it so fun; the nostalgia. It brings back memories of Christmas mornings fighting over who gets to open the Lego presents first (similar to how I saw two grown men fighting over the latest UCS set at the Lego store on May the 4th!). With Lego my family would create our own worlds and imagine the life that went on within them while thinking… “everything is awesome”. Having fun is the main reason I got into photography in the first place and it’s definitely the reason why I love toy photography.  Sometimes I need to remind myself more of this!

Recreation of my sons room in Lego.

2. It’s Therapeutic

Building and photographing Lego is one of the few things in my life that I do 100% just for me. I think everyone needs to have an outlet. Something you can do when you’ve had a stressful day at work or things are just not running at smoothly as you’d hoped. Something that can ease your nerves and calm you down. For me, this is either playing a game of FIFA or building Lego and taking pictures.

3. It Fosters Creativity

I discovered Lego photography one day on Flickr. Out of nowhere I saw some photos from Vesa Lehtimaki, a.k.a @Avanaut. The photos were amazing to me! I’ve always loved photography, but the moment I saw Vesa’s photos I realized that the way I’d been doing photography had limits. Taking wedding photos you are limited to the venue, or to the places you can go nearby. You are limited to the same two subjects (bride & groom) time and time again, not to mention the occasional bridezilla!

The instant I saw Vesa’s photos I realized that many of those limits could disappear. I was blown away with the little worlds that he could create. Lego is a system that can build pretty much anything without ever even needing to leave the house. You can also make mini worlds with household items (such as Vesa does with baking powder) or things you can find right in your backyard (like Brett Wilson does with moss). This makes it so you can take away many of the limits that other types of photography present. Obviously there is the limit of how much Lego you can buy. For me, I have exceeded that limit probably one too many times ;).

a recent avanaut inspired photo…

Building any world you can imagine is amazing, but equally amazing to me is the Lego Minifigure. Whoever created the Lego minifigure deserves a Nobel Prize. It’s incredible how one figure (made of so few parts) can have infinite possibilities. It can represent so many emotions and so many different types of people. I think the minifigure, for me, is what makes photographing Lego so awesome. Chris McVeigh is one photographer who really does any amazing job of capturing minifigures in so many different situations and expressing so many different emotions.

Every Stormtrooper has a different emotional reaction to seeing the Darth Vader choke hold.

There are a ton of different reasons to shoot toy photography, but to me, these are the 3 that are most important. Oh, and I put having fun as number 1 for a reason!

– Kenton

@kentonanderson

The San Francisco Toy Photographers meet-up has come and gone

The San Francisco Toy Photographers meet-up has come and gone. A years worth of planning, organizing and a fair amount of worry, paid off in another epic weekend. There’s no way I can share with you the many moments, both small and large, that bonded this group together. We laughed, we shared toys, we shared equipment and we inspired each other in so many way.  I will do my best to impart a little bit of the magic of our four days together.  Continue reading The San Francisco Toy Photographers meet-up has come and gone

My One Photo that Changed it All

This is the story of the toy photo that set me on my path. From this photo, I never looked back. This, is my one photo that changed it all.

My first post on Toy Photographers was my Why statement. Why I do what I do – photograph, of all things, toys. And in that I touched on my college WWII project.

The longer it’s been since I made that project, the more I realize how defining it has been to my future photos. Continue reading My One Photo that Changed it All

Think big, shoot small?

“To speak out once for all, man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is man, and he is only completely man when he plays.” (Friedrich Schiller, Letters Upon The Aesthetic Education of Man)

Last year my pictures had to be radically abstract. This year they are all about miniature people. What happened? And am I being inconsistent in my photography?

It’s about pictures

I have always tried to be very clear about one thing: My photography is not ‘about’ the things I photograph – in fact, I could not care less in many instances. It is ‘about’ pictures because I like pictures. This notion is also supposed to help me escape a certain kind criticism: It has been said that photography is the death mask of reality and that it is not able to surpass the reality it depicts. I wanted to go beyond that. I aimed at pictures that are independent of the time and place they show. Continue reading Think big, shoot small?

While The Cat’s Away

While the cat’s away, the mice will play. That’s what they say. Well, that’s what Bernie Horowitz says anyway!

toy safari: Gary Larson
“You, Bernie Horowitz? …So YOU’RE the ‘they’ in ‘that’s what they say’?” – Gary Larson

Toy Safari Blues

This past week, Shelly’s been off, gallivanting around in San Francisco at the Toy Photo Safari. And while she’s been away having an amazing time, I’ve been stuck here, keeping the home fires burning, slaving over a hot computer, looking after you kids!! Continue reading While The Cat’s Away

Life After Instagram…

Where to next? What does life after Instagram look like now that the platform is becoming so hated? What began as a simple, chronologically arranged photo sharing app is now virtually unrecognisable, and people aren’t happy. These days a Facebook algorithm governs the feed, the polaroid inspired square format is no longer binding, and Snapchat’s influence is obvious, to say the least. These moves away from the app’s roots are, unsurprisingly, hardly universally popular among Instagram’s 700-million strong userbase. People hate change, toy photographers not excepted. Recently, as first the algorithm, then stories, then the infamous ‘shadow-ban’ rolled out across Instagram, I’ve seen many posts proclaiming:

“Instagram is going down the drain! I’m moving to Eyeem!” 

“Come to 500px! This new algorithm is terrible!” 

“Google+ is the best social media! No Facebook messing us around over there!”  Continue reading Life After Instagram…