To blog, or not to blog….
I never blog!
I hardly read blogs, I even dislike the word. Blog… sounds like something stuck halfway down your toilet, just out of arms reach….waiting, lurking….return of the blogmonster, part fifteen.
Yeah, I should blog I guess, but its just the time, you know? We get sucked into all these routines and distractions, Instagram, Facebook, Email, LinkedIn, Twitter…. Things that just a few years ago, meant absolutely nothing to us, yet we were still busy back then, how the hell have we managed to fit in all this new stuff now… It’s hard to keep up really, It’s hard enough creating content, painting, holding down a full time job, having a family and two small children, taking them swimming, martial arts classes, dad can we do this, dad can we go there….
But, I just might have finally reached my limit. The bubble has burst. I’ve popped a blood vessel in my head, the penny has dropped; the toast has landed on the back of a falling cat, butter side up of course…. (the worry is the cat lands upside down in the street and is squashed by a Tesco lorry)… in a nutshell, I have grown tired of the extended toilet time, stuck on my phone, editing that last pic in snapseed and forgetting completely to wipe.
You might be reading this.
You might not.
You might have SIRI read it to you. You might not. You might, like me, just have glanced at all the text and got a nosebleed…
Either way, you will be thinking, what the fridge magnet is he talking about…. This is why I don’t blog… My head is like a traffic jam, my life is like a racetrack, a 17 lane highway with late mothers racing to drop their kids off at school, parking wherever they like, and I’m caught up in the middle of it clutching my little 12 inch stormtrooper doll, scared to kneel down and take a picture because my knee is sore and the roads are full of, woman drivers….☺
But, like I say, the limit has been reached. The proverbial colostomy bag has burst on the passenger seat of my car, at some point I might actually tell you what I mean, but for now, bare with me whilst I exhaust my use of visual literacy expletives. ☺
Okay, I am ready… I think.
Have you ever just felt, like Bilbo Baggins explained, warm butter, spread to thin across a piece of toast? That’s where I’m headed, and I’ve had enough.
Being a photographer / artist / designer…. Everybody thinks you work for free; everybody wants free stuff, free images, free designs, and free advice. Everybody wants to discuss their ideas, wants to know about your kit, your process etc etc etc. Yes, you understand the feeling… “Oh that’s a cute Lego image you made, can I have it for my son…”or… “What do you charge for your paintings, and can I get mates rates…”
The point is… if I were to look at what I’ve sacrificed over the last 5 years of photographing toys on Instagram, whilst yes, it has given me great pleasure…. Immense pleasure in fact, it has consumed me. I’ve become obsessed with it… What has it cost me? I cannot even begin to think of a price, the toys, the collection, the trips away solely to photograph, but most importantly, the time! The time is what matters most, as time moves slow, but carries a big stick.
And its time I actually sat down and realize this. Stop for a minute, turn off my brain, and look at where I am, and what I’ve become.
Is this a toy photography related blog post? Maybe,
Is it a reflection on where I’ve come from and where I intend to go? Possibly, Is it a grumpy old man ranting? Definitely☺
So, stepping back a little, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What have I done?’
Well, I’m a 41-year-old boy, from sunny South Africa, who decided to move, with his little family to not-so-sunny Britain. Why…? A life riddled with less crime and more opportunity is the short answer. I’m an ex graphic designer, who could not find work in the UK, having not come out of some prestigious la- dee-da design school in London… instead, I turned my hand to what I love. Photography.
I’ve only ever dabbled in photography… Never studied, but, it’s a creative process and we are always learning. Whilst there are definite benefits of a formal education in said subject, I don’t believe anyone can teach creativity. So, I’m comfortable with the fact that I have no degree in photography, and some of the technical aspects still baffle me. (Did Jimi Hendrix have a degree in playing guitar? Or did he just do it!) I do what I do, and that’s how I roll.
I was lucky enough to be employed as a trainee photographer in a beautiful studio for a major retail brand after they had me there as a temp, uploading and retouching images, they saw my portfolio, and noted my extreme interest and gave me a chance! I had NO idea how to even switch a pack on, let alone use studio lights, but because I was passionate about creating images, I dove right in, teeth first… and to cut short a boring story, I found myself as a well respected studio photographer six years later, with a portfolio showing food, room sets, fashion, lifestyle, travel and product photography. I had been trusted to travel around the entire country in a van by myself, photographing farmers and growers, using images to tell their stories in store. I was also being featured in magazines, interviewed and exhibited all around the world. It’s amazing what you can do when you follow your passion.
That brings me to the toys. Or as I like to think, my second job, which all started round the same time as my first. Eric, or actually, back then it was a nameless Lego figure, all happened quite accidentally. One dark and stormy afternoon, (of which there are many in England) saw me stuck inside, and quite calmly, down from the shelf peered a lone Darth Vader figure, just begging to have his photo taken. He had seen me constantly packing my bags to rush out and catch the sunset, or sunrise… poor little guy, just stuck there in plastic ☺
So, like most of us, I guess, I started to take a few snaps, and upon reviewing said snaps, I realized, the personality some toys have, and that’s where the creativity kicked in.
Instead of thinking about landscapes, I started thinking more about toys and not just toys, but stories, situations… And it all just kinda clicked. There’s one thing taking a nice landscape picture, and people look at it and go, ah that’s nice… only to walk away and forget about it, but there is quite another, to actually invoke a feeling, be it laughter, sadness, pity etc….. And to me, that’s what art is, that’s what it has always been about, from my favourite painters, to musicians, the lasting impression it leaves.
So I started posting the Lego images on my deviant art account (I think its still active, I hardly go back!) and I came across a few other people doing the same, and I even bumped into a Mr Mike Stimpson (Balakov). How odd that he’s right here on Stuck in Plastic! Hello Mike, ☺ do you recall the head tilt you credited me for… way back on DA! Anyway, he was the reason I stopped shooting Lego, because his work was just beautiful, and he was doing Star Wars, and I never wanted to be seen as a copycat, so I moved onto the larger 3 inch figures, which for me, brought a new sense of realism to my work, and I ran with it.
And then came instagram☺And BOOM…. I was hooked! Instant feedback, and what does that do…. It drives you, it pushes you even further, to create more and more.
The one thing I was born to do, is make people laugh. And when you start getting feedback, positive feedback instantly, man, it’s a powerful thing. Finally I could leave the dying, manga art obsessed, Deviant Art and have the power of an instant audience, right in my hand.
You want to talk about obsession…? If I take a look through my Instagram, every single moment I had for the last few years, I was taking pictures of Stormtroopers. From my second daughters’ birth, watching them grow up, to my grandmothers passing, there was a story to be told with each, and it just became what I do. Even simple grocery shopping became a constant search for tiny props or packaging I could use in my images.
And as I took more, the audience just got bigger and bigger, to the point where important people and companies were beginning to notice me, and I was getting emails everyday from people all around the world telling me I inspire them, I make them laugh etc…. That’s when the obsession turned into the addiction.
Something happened during these stages, which flipped this switch on in my head, in a very positive way, but had its pitfalls too. I could no longer just simply go to the beach and enjoy it for what it was; I was constantly looking for new places, for new ways to incorporate scenery into story. It is forever constant. It has no OFF button! I cannot even go to bed without my sketchbook of ideas. So over the years, it evolved, into what it is today, and this is where I am. Sitting at over a hundred thousand followers, having done work for some great companies, selling my Vans Shoes and coffee paintings (which began as a simple prop), all around the world, still shooting Stormtroopers, although it has found it’s meaning in one man named Eric now, Still constantly thinking of new ideas… all good things, but, in hindsight, what has it cost me.
Has it played its part in my marriage falling apart? Did it play a hand in my being made redundant recently? Maybe I should’ve been focusing on being a better studio photographer job and possibly moving to another studio before the corporate monsters shut us down…? How has it affected the relationship with my children and my friends? I have no answers; it definitely has had an impact, on all aspects and areas of my life indeed. But I think the positives far outweigh the negative. And I think, and hope, Eric, is going to turn out to be my savior…
So, why then, why this blog post, why the rant… ? Well, it began with a point in mind, but like much of my writing and art, it evolved into whatever it has become all on its own, was there a point, maybe, possibly. Hopefully☺.
What I hope is, someone can read this and think… that is where passion gets you, to relentlessly follow something that drives you, and just let go, and see where it takes you. It comes with highs and lows, but at least its given me a vision. I know now what I want to do, I know my path and I will pursue it furiously. I never want to be owned by a man in a suit, I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, and I know it can be done, and I want to shape my lifestyle around it. Travel, meet people, create.
Work should not feel like a chore. I think we fall into that trap too easily, to pay the mortgage, to live the 9-5, to bring home the bacon. Like screaming chickens on a blood stained conveyor belt waiting to be ground up into bite sized nuggets… Screw that idea!
There is a whole world right here at our fingertips, it just takes a little thought, constant work, and a lot of shameless self promotion and creativity. We need to be able to embrace this new revolution, and although it may be daunting, we need to spread our work across the multiple channels that are available to us; we are the creators of our destiny. And whilst that is possibly the cheesiest thing I’ve ever said, it rings very true, well, for me at least, once I have peeled myself away from the silly regime I have been stuck in all my working life.
I sit here now, as we begin to pack up the house, and I think of the freedom, the lifestyle I’m going to create, for me and for my girls. The opportunity Eric and his plastic friends have given me. The new beginning, the platform I’ve created for myself with just a silly little idea and a constant need to create, and where it can take me.
The possibilities are endless, it just takes dedication, and looking back now, if I’m passionate, and enjoying what I’m doing, the hard work does not feel like work at all.
My only and best advice is to stop once in a while, sit back, breathe, and take in the scenery for yourself, put the camera down, turn the creative brain off (try!), and spend more time with the people that matter most to you in your life. Never lose sight of what is the most important to you. For me, what is most important are my two little girls. Zoey and Sam. For them, I would like to leave behind something they can hold onto, and say, my dad made that, and have beautiful memories of them being part of whatever it is I do create. Having the time, the patience and the love is important to me.
Finding the balance and following my passion, and success will find me… That’s what I am hoping☺
And you know what else…
I think it is good for the soul! You were right Shelly! And I am sorry it has taken me this long.
Thanks for reading all of this☺I do hope you follow me as I update my journey, and look at the way I work, my setups, workflow, ideas etc, through the blogs, Instagram posts, Facebook, you name it, we will be on it!