Quite a few months ago a friend asked if I’d ever shoot Lego. I said ‘probably not’ and went on to explain that something so recognizable in an image makes it all about that item, whether for or against, you can’t have just a message all on its own.
I was being a bit narrow minded.
When using objects designed by someone else, the work does become somewhat of a collaboration. What is tied to the toy you’re featuring within your work?
Take Barbies, with their complex influence in the eyes of the public. Some abhore them, insisting they enforce detrimental beauty standards. Others love them simply as toys or for showing women in such various roles. Whatever your take, Barbie is a weighted icon. Photograph her and many will assume you’re creating commentary around her.
Now, back to Lego. The public perception seems to largely be positive. Lego is a creative toy that spans generations. Besides being horrible to step on, people seem to love them. They’re nostalgic, but ever changing. They encourage outside of the box thinking and allow for never-ending play.
Lego is so versatile. There are classic yellow-skinned mini figs, figures of all nationalities, animals, bricks, specialty parts, etc. In this, the images you can create with Lego are endless.
There are also restrictions with Lego however, the figures lack much movement, the bricks have to click together in a certain fashion, and much of the pieces are geometric. But there’s a beauty in restrictions. They force you to be creative, to figure out ways to move outside of the box.
The more I surround myself with the genius legographers of this community, the more I realize how wrong I was. With any medium, the limit is your creativity.
The large problem was that I couldn’t wrap my mind around how Lego could work with my typical moody style. What I didn’t realize, not having grown up with Lego, is that not all mini figs are happy and not all Lego photos even have to involve them. It’s amazing what you can learn through the eyes of other photographers.
Personally I think it’s helpful to reason through these things. What will the toys I’m using possibly imply to an audience? If I use happy, much loved Lego in my moody work am I creating a juxtaposition between the two ways of thinking? As of now, I don’t think that’s what I’m trying to do, but it’s interesting to consider.
“To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed.”
-On Photography by Susan Sontag
Do you shoot Lego? Why or why not?
Do you think the perceptions of the toys you photograph stick with them in your images?
How have you grown through studying the work of others?