A photo ripple is the perfect tipple

From just a single drop, inspiration radiates outwards in a beautiful ripple.

Dave recently wrote about taking on photography challenges to replenish the creative well when it’s running dry. This month, I was lucky enough to be part of a photo challenge for the first time on G+; a photo ripple.

One person posts a photo, then tags two to post a photo following the theme. Those two then post and tag two more, and so on and so on, resulting in a wonderful ripple of photos radiating out from just one; a casual sequence, a ripple effect.

The epicentre of the ripple, and the brains behind the concept, Wara Zashi, was kind enough to share a little background behind these ripples with me….

We started the first one back in April as a replacement for the end of month event. The monthly events were just G+ events where people could submit figure photos of their liking, as opposed to the weekly event which was topic based. But even before G+ essentially killed off events, the concept was starting to languish, so I wasn’t too happy with it.

I eventually pulled the plug on events and replaced them with ripples (named after the G+ Ripple feature which I really loved).

I figured if each person is named to continue the thread and also has to name two more, it should create a little bit more motivation to participate (classic chain letter). Our community is pretty small and self contained so if the chain grew large enough, it should get to enough people. And I also wanted to see if people would start to request to participate in some manner. 🙂

We did another one for May and June at the end of each month and at that point, people slowly trickled in enough over time and participated that we thought it would be useful to just have the event start at the beginning of the month and run for the whole month. Which is why July is missing since it became an extension of the June event.

ripple: What better reminder for the middle of summer than a little time out at the water enjoying the outdoors, even with the oppressive heatwave. Complete with a nice little floatie.
“What better reminder for the middle of summer than a little time out at the water enjoying the outdoors, even with the oppressive heatwave. Complete with a nice little floatie.” – Wara Zashi

With August, I was definitely looking to expand and see where this can go outside of the community so I thought it could be fun to drag in Shelly to see where she could take it since I know she would have a completely different group of people than our community.

ripple: Rather than send Butterfly Girl to the beach with her floaty, I sent her dancing in the sprinkler with her beloved teddy bear. In the heat, what better way to cool off than some low key fun at home.
“Rather than send Butterfly Girl to the beach with her floaty, I sent her dancing in the sprinkler with her beloved teddy bear. In the heat, what better way to cool off than some low key fun at home.” – Shelly

So far, I’m pretty happy with how it’s working (hopefully the community members/participants are as well). It’s structured, and unstructured, enough that people can do what they want. Ideally I would love to somehow enforce at least a template but people seem to get the general idea of what needs to be done.

ripple: After frolicking under a sprinkler, what better way to cool off than with an icy pole whilst paddling your feet in the cool waters of a lake?
“After frolicking under a sprinkler, what better way to cool off than with an icy pole whilst paddling your feet in the cool waters of a lake?” – Brett

It’s interesting to see, as the ripple grows, how people change it over time. On the toy photography side, it seems to have especially drifted into a chain where you give reasons for recommending and add to the already existing description to explain the chain. The figure side seems to have stuck to the original template a bit more and wants to connect the new post to the previous one through the photo and description.

ripple: Babies - Kiddie Pool
“Well, when sprinklers and ponds aren’t available, and you happen to be quite small, a kiddie pool will due just nicely to beat the summer heat. Look closely and you’ll see ducky peering over the edge.” – Jennifer

I’ve only given vague hints as to how each post is supposed to connect so it’s been interesting to see it evolve.

ripple: And sometimes (once you've grown up a little) you just use a hot day to chat on a cliff, waiting for the high tide to roll in...
“And sometimes (once you’ve grown up a little) you just use a hot day to chat on a cliff, waiting for the high tide to roll in…” – Tobias

At some point, I’ll add in some new concepts, but we’ll see how it goes over time. 🙂

These wonderful ripples are like a reverse game of pass the parcel; with every step, another layer is added. As these ripples radiate throughout communities, stories twist and turn, styles merge and divide. Sometimes the ripples fade, and sometimes they journey into wonderfully, unforeseen places; just like ripples do.

Just like Dave, I find challenges are wonderful source of motivation and inspiration. Being pulled into this ripple and being invited to help it grow was definitely so.

I’ve only included a few shots from the August ripple; it’s still radiating. But, from just these handfuls of shots, you can see how a single drop can produce wonderful results.

-Brett

Thank you Wara Zashi, for sharing your words and for the fantastic ripples you generate.

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Why by Greater Beast

The first and few things I’ve ever stolen in my life was a crayon. I was two or three and my mom found it in my pants pocket one day after daycare. When she asked me about it, I said it was so fun and amazing I really wanted to draw all the time. She felt so bad she bought me a box the next day after telling me to never steal again. We returned the crayon back to the daycare.

I’m not the most expressive person. Raised by people who thought showing emotion was a weakness, I was a quiet and reserved child.

But shit always has a way of surfacing, doesn’t it? No matter how hard you try to repress it, it always leaks out, spills over like too much jelly.

Drawing. Writing. Fashion. Sculpting.

I was quiet but I was always screaming.

And I think I was always going to end up here one way or another. Some mutation or blip in my personality would predispose me to this hobby. I wouldn’t call myself a photographer or anything, but I like it. There’s something magical about pressing a button and a whole new world is perfectly paused and encapsulated.

Toys and Instagram really blew up that novelty of photography for me.

In this newly founded cult of social media, the image, the dream, the mirage is the only thing that matters. And the frame only keeps getting smaller and smaller. Further and further from reality. From blogs, our obsession moved on to micro blogging like Tumblr, then to Twitter, and now Instagram as we sharpened our images into fine points meant only to pierce the heart.

I love it. It’s like skimming cream off milk.

And I think toy photography naturally thrives in that capsule world. There’s so much weight in those little PVC hunks of plastic veiled in childhood heroes and nostalgia. Showing too much would only break the spell. And there’s nothing funner than dealing in the fantasy that toys already lend themselves to. Tools turning dreams into reality if only for a moment.

Thank you very much for this opportunity to ponder such a difficult question. I’m 100% certain if Shelly never stumbled upon me on Instagram I would have never gone outside but then maybe my dioramas would be done better lol. Much love to you guys.

Eva

Art as Therapy

Sometimes, life gets you down.

By the time you’re reading this article, it’s been written and re-written several times over. Just when I think I know how to gather my thoughts about this particular subject, I hit a roadblock and start fresh. What I learned is that I need to be honest from the jump: I’m having a hard time. I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m depressed, I’m disillusioned, I’m disappointed; I feel hopeless and powerless.

Depression is a very real issue that’s hard to talk about, and certainly one I felt nervous about discussing here at Toy Photographers. Luckily I was emboldened by Leila Cheiko, who used her art to speak up about her political frustrations, and Harley Quin, who did a wonderful and touching series about her own depression and how it effects her as an artist. So, here it goes…

lego-art-depression

About a month ago, I was hit with depression. Hard.

It invaded every aspect of my life. I felt sad the minute I woke up, I lost interest in things that usually brought me joy (like photography), I felt disconnected from my wife, friends, and co-workers. I felt alone, and most of all, guilty about being depressed. I bottled it in for several weeks, pretending like everything was normal and trying to just smile more and move on. Instead of letting myself feel it, I hid it away from myself, and the world.

This is, of course, not a healthy way of dealing with depression, and in the end it only made things worse. It wasn’t until my wife asked me to open up to her about it that I was able to face it head-on. Over time, it subsided and my life (generally) went back to normal. Such is the nature of depression: It has its ups and downs, it hits me at unexpected times, and can depart as quickly as it arrived.

One of the things that helped me get through it was art. More specifically, my art. I used to use photography simply as a way of telling the stories in my head, or putting jokes out there with fun setups and characters that I love. As I’ve grown as an artist, my photography has become more personal, and I’ve learned to use it as a method of self expression.

lego-art-therapy
Sometimes, art is the very best medicine

Art can be very therapeutic.

I’m not nearly qualified enough to speak on just how helpful it can be, or why; for that I recommend Alain de Botton’s book Art as Therapy and its accompanying website. I also found a great blog, which discusses the therapeutic nature of art in detail:

Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being… The creative process involved in expressing one’s self artistically can help people to resolve issues as well as develop and manage their behaviors and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness.

While I was able to overcome my latest bout of depression, I was hit with sadness again this past week. The threat of nuclear war and the sight of white supremacists rallying in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia will do that to you. Again, I felt hopeless and powerless in the face of evil. I felt angry at the world for being so dark. I wanted to disappear and shut myself away from all of it, while at the same time knowing I couldn’t just bury my head in the sand.

I’m still working through how I can turn to art, and specifically my own art, to help overcome this latest wave of darkness. I’m also thankful to have the supportive Toy Photographers community to lean on. We aren’t just a group of photographers sharing our work. We’re friends who are there for each other in times of need. Shelly helped me accept that I could turn to photography when I was sad, and not just as a means of therapy, but as a quick escape from the world. In a discussion we had on Google+, Shelly told me:

I think we have to allow ourselves to escape. Otherwise we will go crazy. Never apologize for directing your energies to art.

She’s absolutely right. So I will unapologetically go back into the studio, turn on my camera, and see what stories I can tell – either to escape the troubling current events for a little while, or work my way through them. One therapeutic photo at a time.

– James

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2018 Toy Photographers Meet-Up

It’s that time of the year when I start thinking about the 2018 Toy Photographers Meet-Up. Honestly I feel like I’m already behind the eight ball. By this time last year, we already had the city picked out and the locations set. Yikes!

But 2018 is still a few months away, so I think we have time to plan our fourth fabulous and spectacular event. In an effort to create an event that can accommodates as many people as possible, I’ve create a questionnaire for any interested participants. Please take a moment to complete this short survey so we can be on our way to making decisions and planning another fun weekend!

If you’re not familiar with a what a toy meet-up is all about, you can check out posts about San Francisco from:  David Valdez, Julien Ballester, Doug Gary and Lawrence Ruelos. Every meet-up is different so be sure and check out the posts by Mrs Playwell and FathersFigures about Seattle in 2016. In addition there is a short video about the Seattle meet-up created by Leia Chieko you should watch too!

Toy photography meet ups are a lot of fun! You connect with like minded photographers; swap photo tips and toys; exchange photos and take home new toys through the toy exchange. Plus you will receive a custom designed Krash’s Custom mini figure with your registration. I’ve been told by Krash, that the 2018 Toy Photographers meet-up custom has already been designed and is even better than the last three! That’s hard to image, but I will have to trust him.

Sample customs created by KrashOverride for past meet-ups. (Photo by Dennis Taylor, aka Krash_Override)

Does this sound like fun? Do you want to meet up with an eclectic group of toy photographers like these folks?

The attendees of the 2017 San Francisco toy photo safari. Photo Credit: Sandi on Leila’s camera 🙂

Be sure and fill out this short survey about the 2018 Toy Photographers Meet-Up so we know your preference. Once I have your responses, I will confirm the date and location. It’s never too early to start planning travel and scheduling time off work.

I look forward to meeting-up with any and all toy photographers in 2018 for our fourth toy photography meet-up!

Shelly

And if you’ve made it this far I encourage you to sign up for our weekly email round-up. Or join our G+ Community were we hold monthly contests with prizes for the winner! 

Photo Fakery

Each photo we make tells a story, and for many of us, we aim to bring toys to life through our images. Generally, this is done in one of two ways – showing the life of a toy, or showing life through a toy. The latter aims to blur the line between fantasy and reality and thus cause the viewer to think twice about the size of the objects within the photo.

While I’ve discussed the history of toy photography here before, I’d like to now focus on the genre that sometimes overlaps with toy photography – photo fakery.

Photo fakery, at its core is probably something you’re very familiar with. Think magazine covers with heavily photoshopped models, or more closely related to this blog, cinematic film sets made entirely of intricate miniature models (see ‘further reading’ below). But for 100 years, if not more, people have been using small objects within photographs for large-scale results. And no matter the desired goal, this has been done in part to trick the viewer into believing the photo before them is of the full scale, real world.

Photography’s roots lie in truth. While in modern times we recognize photos are easily, and quite often, manipulated, photos still tend to be considered representative of what was in front of the camera lens, and therefore, a more believable medium than say painting.

While photo fakery ranges from merging photos, deleting and adding details through dark room or digital techniques, and using photos in unintended ways – such as with misleading news-like captions, for the purposes of this post, I’m only going to discuss those which involve toys or similar small-scale objects.

1917

Elsie Wright and Francis Griffiths began to create the images, later referred to as the Cottingley Fairies in 1917. These photos of cardboard fairies captured the public’s attention as proof of the existence of fairy creatures when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used them to illustrate a story in 1920. The truth behind the photos, while it had been questioned, was not revealed until the early 1980s.

1933

“The most extraordinary photographs ever taken of air flights in war.” (The Illustrated London News) were some 50 images compiled in the book ‘Death in the Air: The War Diary and Photographs of a Flying Corps Pilot‘ (a book still available for purchase today) published in 1933. These images however were of model planes and created by model maker Wesley David Archer. Examined and believed to be of models, by a CIA photo expert in the early 1950s, deemed as fake by Time-Life Laboratory in 1979, these photos were not officially proven false until after Archer’s death, when some of his belongings were given to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in 1984, over 50 years after their publication.

1934

The most famous photo of the Loch Ness Monster was captured in 1934 by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kenneth Wilson. This photo however was actually of a 14 inch toy submarine with an attached serpent head. This was not revealed however for another 60 years, when one of the men involved confessed on his deathbed.

1972

Photographs involving realistic depictions of toys haven’t always been so manipulative however. David Levinthal who began photographing toys in 1972, has always been upfront about his subject matter. Yet many of his images, most notably those of war, successfully blur the line between plastic toy and real world.

1990s

Referring to herself as a faux landscape photographer, Lori Nix is known best for her still photos of small scale post apocalyptic worlds.

Michael Paul Smith, a diverse model maker, takes his cars outdoors to photograph in the real world with forced perspective. While he’s received online media attention quite recently, he’s been photographing toys for over 25 years.

2000s

In modern day, there are plenty of us who create images with this goal in mind. But there are a few I’d like to mention who are truly succeeding in making this phenomenal form of art that are not always known in the toy photography community.

In 2000, Mark Hogancamp started taking photos of war figures as a form of art therapy. Many of his images appear so realistic, one was even shared across facebook as a depiction of ‘real American courage.’

Matthew Albanese began creating insanely real scale model photography in 2008. In his outdoor landscape photos, every details is scrutinized over before the photo is created.

Felix Hernandez Rodriguez, most widely recognized as of late for his work with Audi, has a keen eye for detail, atmosphere and light and uses it to make some very believable shots.

Further Reading

And that’s where I’ll leave you today.

What toy photographers do you think are making the most realistic images?

And do you prefer photos that show the lives of toys or photos that try to make toys look real?

Jennifer Nichole Wells

Vesa left an intriguing comment on my history of post, wondering about toy photogs of history that haven’t received widespread attention – those that have been dabbling in the hobby that we just don’t know about. In response I made an Ask Panda over on Bored Panda, and hopefully, in time we will have some contribution. Go ahead and add your toy photo to the mix if you’re so inclined and share it about – http://www.boredpanda.com/have-you-ever-made-a-toy-photo/.

Bold Adventures of a happy stormtrooper

I am not what I think I am; I am not what you think I am; I am what I think you think I am. ~ Charles Horton Cooley

Stormtrooper Frank has many adventures.  Most of them are generally happy ones.

-Storm watching
-Pinecone collecting
-Gardening / planting
-Teaching art
-Lunch with locals

But occasionally he has that unplanned adventure like Crash landing on Dagobah… Frank made the mistake of jumping into hyperspace without his helmet strap on… what a mess.

~Joseph Cowlishaw

What if why changes from way back when?

I’ve revisited photos, but I’ve neglected to revisit the question why.

Why then?

In June 2015 I was asked “why?” A lot has changed since then.

So, with all these changes, has my reason why changed too?

Let me premise this by saying that I’m not a photographer. Heck, I don’t even own a real camera. I’m just a knucklehead with an iPhone!

Back when I first tackled the seemingly simple question, my reason why revolved around the friendships I’d made. That hasn’t changed. But my motives have grown.

Two years ago, I resisted defining what I did as art. Since then, my photos shared the walls of an art gallery with the friends that were my reason back then. So, I guess I have to accept that I create art.

Now why?

Starting Toy Photographers with Shelly has also changed my motivation and drive. There’s now a purpose and goal. My what has become so much more than just taking photos of toys and posting them online. Sure, I still do that, but it’s just a small part of what I do now. And, as my what evolves, so does my why.

Why: The more whats you have, the more whys you'll need!
The more whats you have, the more whys you’ll need!

My what has morphed into so much more that just taking photos of toys, and my why, when, how, and soon my where, have morphed along with it. And as my whats have multiplied, the whys behind those whats have too. 

Some of the origin answers remain. Friendship and fun are still driving forces in why I do this. However, they’re now accompanied by community, engagement, improvement, learning, sharing, striving, commitment, and love as reasons why. Sure, improvement and learning were probably always in there somewhere, but reasons like engagement and commitment are new additions. These new whys are directly connected to the new what of being a part of the Toy Photographers community; an exciting and invigorating what indeed!

I’ve revisited photos for the exhibition and for the challenge that Jennifer threw out. But I’d never thought to revisit the question of why I do this too.

And with that in mind, I respond to the question of “why?” with a resounding “why not?”

And beyond

As we evolve and develop, surely our reason behind our motivation varies as well? If my why was still the same as it was over two years ago, I’d either achieved it by now, or I’d failed to meet it. Either way, it needs to be revisited.

Why: A steady diet of whats and whys
A steady diet of whats and whys, with a side order of whens, whos and wheres…

As we grow, as people, as photographers, as artists, the motivation behind what we do grows also. Maybe we tick off some of our goals? Perhaps those goals change? Or maybe it’s just as simple as we change, and therefore so do our reasons?

– Brett

Have you ever asked yourself why? Maybe you’d be interested in writing about it for us? If you are, let me know. We’re always looking for new voices to share here.

If you enjoy posts like this, we invite you to join our G+ community.
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My Latest Flame

I’ve taken a few shots this week that I’m really proud of. I was going to sit on them for a few days but I couldn’t wait to share at least one of them. The arrival of the new Last Jedi SDCC Exclusives has really given me a kick to get out and shoot more. These two new figures are characters that will feature heavily in the new film, but they also have uncertain paths to take.

I, like many others, can’t wait for the next Star Wars film. Although I try to stay pretty spoiler-free, getting these new figures has given me the opportunity to  make up some of my own stories and add to the intrigue associated with the future of these two characters. It’s part of what toy photography is all about for me – telling the untold story through images. It can sometimes be challenging, when a character and their history are very well known, to tell a different kind of story; however, going off-cannon and making up different adventures for them can be both fun and exciting. It can also take you back to the way you used to play with these toys as a child. Back then, you might not have even seen some of the films starring some of your toys, but that never stopped you from taking them out on your own adventures in your back garden.

A favourite figure is something that changes so often for me. It’s often a Star Wars or a Lego related one, but usually it’s something that connects me with childhood memories of the toys I used to play with. There’s a rich history associated with releasing Star Wars figures before the next film, sometimes even before we have any idea who the character is (for example, Boba Fett).

For that reason, these two new figures are my current favorites despite a slightly dodgy paint finish here and there, and they’ve helped to remind me why I love toy photography.

Inevitably, a week or a month or so later, the next shiny figure pops up on my wanted list and I’ll convince myself that I absolutely need it for ‘that’ shot. When everyday life gets in the way of creativity, and it feels too difficult to dig out the motivation to get out and shoot, a new figure can really help spark your imagination.

Chris Rose

You can follow Chris on Instagram and G+

I’m falling in love with my subjects  

I fell in love with my plastic Stormtrooper the first time I saw him. I fell for his shoes first. Then I saw the rest and I was totally lost.  I love the helmet and the expression. After my project with Stormtroopers, I’ve been falling in love with my subjects in periods. It happens both when I photograph toys as well as when I photograph people. Out of love, I want to come back to these subjects that I’ve fallen for, again and again,  I can not get enough …

I’m in love with a new toy

For the moment, I feel that feeling when I look at a toy I borrowed from Earth People. It’s a wrestler. It’s as plastic as plastic toys can be, and he is anything but flexible or beautiful. The pictures I take of this wrestler feel like documentation. I don’t want to or can’t capture the feelings I have toward this figure. My images don’t seem to lift. I wish they would, because then I wouldn’t have to struggle. I’m so in love with what I see, but I’m not impressed with the result, because I can’t capture all that I see or feel.

When I look at this toy I see so much that I seem to fall for. To some extent, this toy is a symbol of  attributes that I admire; he’s strong, independent, but at the same time very ridiculous. In my imagination he isn’t aware of that or maybe he is but he doesn’t care. He has a mask and a cape – both are pink. In my eyes is he an anti-hero, a bit ugly, stubborn and truly ridiculous in his apperence. But at the same time his is also strong and independent. The toy is priceless and wonderful … I’m completely lost and totally in love.

a fallen wrestler

I don’t know how I should portray my new love

I only have one small problem. Even though I can’t get enough of this subject, I do not know how I should use my feelings to tell his story (or if it’s my story that I want to tell through him. I’m not sure). I haven’t found an expression to convey the feelings that this wrestler arouses. My emotions are contradictory – he’s strong and dangling, a hero wearing a pink mask – and yet nothing like a classic hero with his pink tights and his pink cape. So while I’m looking for an expression, I continue to document my “new” love with my camera.

Kristina

P.S. Taking out my Trooper to photograph for this post made me feel the same feelings I always do when I look at that toy through my camera 🙂

“There is no love like the first love.”