The One

The question of “The One” is a bit difficult for me because it requires that I look further into my past; more specifically, to the days before I’d properly rediscovered Lego.

In 2007, a colleague of mine badgered me to join Flickr and participate in photography challenges. I had a consumer-level digital camera at the time and only the vaguest interest in photography, but after a few weeks of his pestering, I acquiesced. The proverbial door was thus opened, and I stepped through it apprehensively.

I soon found myself enjoying the daily challenges, and moreover, an entirely new way to express myself. I could be comical, curious or even dire; I could tell a story, or I could create art. Serendipitously, my amateur photos seemed to resonate with a small but growing audience. The response was empowering, and it wasn’t long before I purchased my first DSLR.

In those early days, the camera was pointed at everything: family and friends, rustic landscapes, weathered bridges, brightly-coloured buildings, curious textures, and of course, old toys. But what most drew my attention was backyard wildlife.

An unfortunate incident introduced me to a chipmunk I’d soon call Buddi. She’d snuck into the garden shed looking for bird seed and the door had been closed, trapping her inside overnight. I discovered her the next afternoon. She’d climbed up to a window and was sat there – her tiny paws pressed against the glass – chirping loudly in distress. I quickly opened the door, expecting her to jump down and make a quick exit. She did not. The experience had clearly rattled her, and she slinked behind a tool chest and wouldn’t budge. Concerned about how long she’d been up on the shelf, I provided her with some birdseed, a small dish of water and gave her some space. After a short time, she emerged and lapped up the water before moving onto the seed. I neared, but she no longer seemed concerned; she understood I was no threat. I placed a plank of wood against the shelf as a make-shift ramp, and she ran off.

Over the next few months, I developed a friendship of sorts with Buddi. I’d leave food out for her, which she’d collect up and take to back to her nest. I marvelled at the focus she showed, returning again and again until all the food was gone. This predictable, repetitive behaviour allowed me to get some great photos of her (and other chipmunks), and that got me wondering if I could actually stage shots of her interacting with my action figures? The answer was a resounding yes, and during the next three years, I’d create a dozen or so pictures of chipmunks in comical (and quite frankly, bizarre) scenarios with Star Wars action figures. (https://flic.kr/s/aHsj1fuq58)

The first significant photo in this series was called “Oh Noes!” and featured the chipmunk I called Billy being confronted by an Ewok. I happened to catch Billy with his mouth agape, looking as though he was startled. (He wasn’t, of course; he was just collecting up almonds and going about his business). This picture was the “One.” Not the most popular, not the most elaborate, and certainly not the best concept, but it was the one that managed to capture the attention of the masses and push me to be a better photographer. It was the one that changed everything.

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It’s been five years since I took my last chipmunk photo. My furry little friends are long gone now, but in their brief time in this world, they were superstars.

– Chris

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0 thoughts on “The One”

  1. Fun story and incredible series on Flickr! Were the figures actually riding the chipmunks in “Easy Rider” and “Space Cowboy”? I especially liked “Under Siegel” and “Now Might Be a Good Time to Panic”.

    1. Had she not gotten stuck in the shed, I’m not sure I would have ever started feeding the chipmunks in the backyard. It’s odd to think that such a random event could have such an impact on my future!

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