In certain circles legography is considered product photography. We’ve tried to define toy photography as still life, travel photography, tableau-vivant as well as the catch all narrative / action. Lately I’ve come to think of toy photography as a form of FanFiction.
What is FanFiction?
FanFiction is when someone takes either the story or characters (or both) of a certain piece of work, whether it be a novel, TV show, movie, etc. and create their own story based on it. Sometimes people will take characters from one movie and put them in another, which is called cross-over. – The Urban Dictionary
When I look through my Instagram feed, I see recreations from movies using LEGO that are barely distinguishable from the originals. I see LEGO storm troopers hunting for Pokemon on the DeathStar. I see genre bending crossovers of every style imaginable; stories and situations limited only be the artist’s imagination. Once you start looking at toy photography through the lens of FanFiction, its hard to imagine it as anything else.
Lego with its many licensed intellectual properties is ripe for creating photographic fan fiction and crossover fiction. (There is something very satisfying about seeing Lego Friends combined with the Star Wars universe.)
Certainly the photographs created by Vesa within the Star Wars universe that focus on the stories taking place outside the main story line can be seen as FanFiction. Mike’s photos representing storm troopers in every day situations can be viewed as a form of fan fiction where these familiar characters inhabit a more ordinary universe.
I personally feel that many of the photographs I create fall squarely in the realm of FanFiction. When I recreate the world of Chima as one of peace rather than war, is that not FanFiction? When I expand the world of Mouse Guard showing the characters at play in the forest, rather than battling, is that not also FanFiction?
Creating FanFiction is a great way to show your love of a particular story line, a fun way to expand your favorite universe with new stories and characters or tie up loose ends left by the original author. Where would the Star Trek franchise be without FanFiction? Several of the best known writers of Star Trek FanFic have gone on to write for the franchise’s movies and tv shows. The Star Wars franchise was kept strong by its legions of fans who kept the universe alive for the ten years between Episode III and VII?
FanFiction is nothing new, even Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is based on an earlier poem by Arthur Brookes titled : “The Tragic history of Romeo and Juliet.” Other famous fan fictions are Pride and Prejudice and Zombies based on Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice; Neil Gaiman’s “The Problem with Susan” fills in the gaps left by the final book in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe series; and of course Fifty Shades of Grey started out as Twilight FanFiction. If you identify yourself as a creator of FanFiction, I hope you can see that you’re in good company. (I didn’t make any of this up!)
In the past year we’ve spent time trying to define toy photography and what we create. I think its important to know where we fit into the larger world of creatives. If we can define it, we can promote it more successfully. If you’re one of the many people who are interested in selling your work, it’s much easier to do so if you know what it is you actually DO.
Luckily we live in a time where FanFiction is increasing in popularity. There is no shame in creating or recreating the stories that you love. While the issues of fair use still overshadows the discussion, there is still plenty of room to create a name for yourself as a purveyor of FanFiction. All you have to do is look to the success of Matthew Callahan who was recently nominated for a Hugo in the category of Fan Art for his work recreating real life battle scenes using Star Wars action figures.
Even if you’re accused of making one more cute Storm Trooper photo (How can you not? Lego Storm Troopers ARE cute!) don’t stop taking those photos. You’re a FanFiction artist, part of a long and proud tradition of artists taking their favorite genres and story lines and giving them a personal spin. Who knows, maybe you will become one of the those legendary fans who turned pro.
FanFiction for the win!!
If you consider yourself a FanFiction artists, how does your world differ from or expand on the original? Do you partake in cross-over fan fiction? If you do, which franchises do you use and why?