First and foremost, I would like to thank Shelly for inviting me to be a part of this blog and the ongoing “Why?” series where Lego photographers alike share about why they take photos of Lego.
I remember my first Lego set was a Castle themed one, which I had gotten for Christmas. It really didn’t have much significance because Lego to me then was just a building toy. I found myself more attracted to action figures instead. From Power Rangers, Street Sharks, Biker Mice from Mars, Double Dragon, Marvel/DC superheroes to TMNT, I had at least one action figure character from almost every 90’s cartoon series.
So how did I end up doing Lego Photography you might ask? A big part of it has to do with my undeniable love for superheroes and comics. With the release of the 2012 Avengers movie, I picked up my first Lego set in ages; the set was #6867, Loki’s Cosmic Cube Escape. I remember being amazed by the amount of detail on that Iron Man minifigure, especially the faceplate that could be flipped open to show Tony Stark’s face. How could so much awesome be embedded in one tiny figure? I felt the need to do something with it. I wanted to capture this excitement, and with my iPhone 3GS I took a shot of Mr. Stark in a running pose supported by a minifigure base plate stand tile, and uploaded the picture on my Instagram account with the exact caption:
“Jarvis, I’m ready to roll.” #Lego #marvel #iron man #avengersmovie #hobby #collection
I thought that with the use of hashtags, this would be an interesting way to share my creativity with the world.
When I started out, I had only one goal in mind for each photo that I took; the mini figure HAD TO look organic and alive. A Lego mini figure’s articulation, as you already know, is pretty limited (head spins 360 degrees, arms and legs move up and down). So how do you make them feel alive? The answer was simple—to make them assume more human-like behaviors. And what do superheroes do most of the time? They run. That was all I really did for the first couple of shots, each time trying to perfect the look of a running minifigure. As I got along, I did away with the base plate stand and added a new weapon into my arsenal—Blu-Tack (putty-like pressure sensitive adhesive). Blu-Tack holds the feet of the mini figure firmly to the ground, and when well hidden, adds to the illusion of it running. It was just perfect.
I prefer not to use digital editing, and many of the poses that I pull off, are practical effects done with Blu-Tack and a stand (made up of 3 – 4 round cylinder 1 by 1 pieces that act as a support when required for flying poses). The angles of my shots also play a massive role in the adopted style, especially so with the way I pose minifigures, concealing any Blu-Tack used. The only other thing I needed was colored paper, which is used as a simple backdrop for the mini figures, and the rest was up to me to create. In many ways, I view the whole process similar to how a comic book artist would draw his sketches within a panel. Every pose was an experiment, and as much as I could, I tried not to repeat them.
With all of that said, I brought in ‘storytelling’ as another element into my style of photography. I believe, “Every picture tells a story and each picture is worth a thousand words.” But what makes a picture worthy of a thousand words? I begin by putting together various accessories (e.g. a bench, a brick wall, a cellphone, etc.) to create a make-believe environment. I allow the characters to interact with this environment to tell a story, and invite the audience to take part in interpreting the message behind the photos. This minimalist approach would then go on to become one of my primary styles—most noticeably in #thelittlemanandhispetfrog series.
The Little Man is essentially an extension of myself that I use to reflect some of my life’s experiences.
The usual setup typically involves all of the above mentioned with the addition of different light sources occasionally (mini table lamps and tap lights) to add a layer of realism. The only real upgrade in equipment would be my trusty iPhone, from a 3Gs, 4s to now a 5s which even I think is too old for 2016! I should really get an upgrade.
Lego photography has not only become an outlet for me to unleash the inner superhero fanboy, it has also become a platform where ideas, emotions and personal opinions can be subtly expressed in the magic of storytelling through this form of photography. To an extent, it is the ideal getaway.