The creative process is never linear. Since it’s the end of the year and a convenient time for self reflection, I’ve recently realized something about myself: I like to shoot my photos within the loose framework of a series. I may shoot under the larger umbrella of toys (or LEGO) but within my photographs you will see consistent themes running through my frequent social media posts.
I’m sure my themes are not as obvious as the Stormtroopers that populate the world of Mike and Kristina, or the women of Boris’s work or the Star Wars ships that dominate Vesa’s photos, but trust me they’re there. By shooting these mini themes, or to borrow an idea from Kristina, always shooting with a red thread in mind, I can slowly add to a larger body of work that I can fall back on as needed.
I break my work down into five general themes in order of importance:
- The Book
- Custom Robots
- Classic Space
- Mix and Match
Whenever I go out shooting I make sure each of these themes are represented in my box of mini figures. I’m constantly pushing each individual idea along in hopes of one day having enough images that I can create something larger. My philosophy is that the sum is greater than the parts.
After the successful completion of my first book, the Runaway Bunny in 2014, I wanted to grow on that experience this year. At the beginning of 2015 my goal was to have enough images finished by August that I could begin assembling a new and much larger book. Not only did I fall short of that goal, but life had other surprises for me. When the last minute decision to have a second show at the Bryan Ohno Gallery came up, I was caught without anything suitable to show. I felt the second show was taking place too soon. But I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I got to work.
I really wanted to showcase a series of classic space images for this group show, but the images I had taken so far hadn’t gelled into a cohesive set yet. When I scoured my other images, I realized the custom robot series I’d been working on all year had enough images to pull from that I could create a cohesive group of images to showcase. At this point I was very grateful that I had several ideas in play at once.
I know in my heart that I would have a stronger body of work if I was more single minded in my photography. I admire Mike, Kristina and Vesa in their singular visions, but frankly, I would bore myself if I worked this way. I like what happens when I take a seemingly random set of mini figures into the real world and see what develops. Sometimes the location is perfect for Classic Space, sometimes it’s more suited for The Book project. No matter which way the energy flows, I’m ready.
When it came time for me to put together my best of 12 images for our book challenge I had the most pleasant surprise…. a different book came flowing out unbidden. I’ve been shooting the LEGO Chima line for almost three years and it seems that whatever has been going on in the back of my head during this time, was finally ready to reveal itself. The book I’d wanted to make at the beginning of the year wasn’t the book I ended up making. Rather than be disappointed, I was thrilled!
I share all of this with you to let you know that the creative process is not linear. It needs to weave and dodge; it needs to take two steps back and one step forward; it will even occasionally crash and burn but rise up again in unexpected ways. Basically the road from initial idea to finished product is never straight. Instead of trying to force an idea to completion, always be open to the pauses, be open to the detours…
Above all, be patient.
How do you like to work? Do you enjoy following one or multiple “red threads”?
Do you have any projects you would like to complete in 2016?