Creating Art that’s Intimately Yours

The world opens up…as a grand and glorious adventure in feeling and in understanding. Nothing human is unimportant to him. Everything he sees is germane to his purpose. Every word that he hears uttered is of potential use to him. Every mood, every passing fancy, every trivial thought can have its meaning and its place in the store of experience he is accumulating.

-from Studs Lonigan by James T. Farrell as quoted by Brooks Jenson of LensWork  (LW1040 Inspiration Comes from Everywhere)

Scratching the Surface

In a way I feel like each of my photos is an exploration of the same concept, emotion, story. And yet, while stylistically they may be similar, each photo varies in subject matter.

In each image I aim to create a quite stillness, a calm in the storm, surrounded by mystery. Why? Well, it certainly has a lot to do with my personal thoughts and experiences. But, the question remains as to whether I will finish scratching that itch; if I will inevitably decide that I’ve fully explored this story photographically. Or, if I will forever continue to grow and explore how to better represent precisely what I mean to.

Faking It

Call it self doubt, insecurity, imposter syndrome. Call it whatever you like. The fact is, every one of us, at some time or another, have felt like we’re faking it. Like our photos aren’t unique. That we’re not improving. The list goes on

I’ve though multiple times lately that my art isn’t what it used to be. Spoiler alert, it’s not. But, I’m starting to think that’s a good thing. Initially I wondered if I was becoming too influenced by the pop culture work I scrolled through on social media, or maybe I was just throwing stuff together to meet the daily post goal. And honestly, both are probably true to some degree. The difference is that I was giving too much negative weight to these possibilities.

So Back to that Itch…

In feeling too influenced by other toy photographers I thought to take a step back, to absorb photography of the full scale world, maybe even make some of my own. I didn’t do either, not then at least. But just considering full scale photographic genres, a multitude of mini-world ideas formed.

One of those was black and white architectural photography. Something I did full-scale for my first ever gallery show. So out came my odd collection of second hand, dusty, HO and N scale buildings and I started to observe them through my camera lens. To my amazement, they still came out stamped with my dark, mysterious, quite aesthetic.

Overall

Unless you’re purposefully directly copying, grabbing onto something you like from a photo you see and using it to further influence your photos, doesn’t only make sense, it’s a great way to continue improving your photography.

And with that, striving to make a bunch of work can be a good way to keep experimenting, finding your style, and once again, improving.

Of course, no matter the positive spin you can put on any of your doubts, you’re still going to make photos you’re not happy with, you’re going to have dry spells, you’re going to question what the heck your goal here is.

I don’t have any great answers in this creative conundrum, but as I’m sure most of you know, the benefits to creating always seem to outweigh the frustrations.

Really, what I think it comes down to, is getting to know yourself, your aesthetic, and your photo goals. As creatives we’re never really 100% where we want to be photographically, but if we continue to create, experiment, learn, than we’re making just what we aim to be, and that artistic journey will stretch out before us.

Jennifer Nichole Wells

What ideas do you explore in your photos? Do you ever feel like you’re too influenced by the photos of others? What do you do to combat those fears?


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My Better Half

Yesterday, my wife Jordan and I celebrated our eleven year anniversary. We started dating the day we met – as teenagers at a birthday party who talked alone for hours, fell asleep holding hands, and told each other we loved each other the next day.

She’s my favorite person on the planet, my better half in every way, and instrumental in each and every photo I take and blog post I write. She’s more than my partner in crime – she’s the unsung hero of my artistic endeavors, of which there have been many over the last eleven years!

lego-super-jordan
Super Jo

She’s been supportive of every artistic itch I’ve had. Over the years I bounced back and forth between music, film, writing, and now photography. With each crazy new idea, she’s been along for the ride.

I’ve mentioned her in my posts a few times. She provided me with makeup brushes to remove dust, she was there for me when I dealt with depression, and she accompanied me to the Art of the Brick exhibit earlier this year. But when it comes to photography and even writing for this blog, she’s been pivotal in ways you’d never notice. While you’ve been looking at my work and reading my words, you’ve actually been spending time with her, too.

Jordan proofs each and every blog post I write.

I make sure to write my posts a few days before they’re scheduled to go out so that she’ll have a chance to sit down and go through them. She reads them out loud, with me sitting nervously next to her on the couch, and fixes every misplaced comma. She recommends synonyms that will spice up my language, and say things like, “I see where you’re going here, but think you’re forgetting this…

She’s the first one to look at my photos.

Whether it’s on my LCD screen immediately after a shot, or on my computer screen after a long editing session, Jordan’s always the first to look at my photos. I tell her most of my ideas before I shoot them, so she knows the basic premise before I turn my computer screen toward her. It’s fun to see her light up when an idea comes to life. It’s also hard when she frowns and says, “I’m not sure about that background,” or, “Why are the minifigure’s hands upside down?”

lego-hangover-jordan
This original Hangover picture only had 1 bottle. Jordan recommended I add more for a better effect.

Jordan even helps me take photos.

Some of my favorite photos couldn’t have been taken without Jordan helping me. I once put the Pig Suit minifigure on a chopstick and asked her to hold it above her head, so that I could get a shot of it against the clouds from the angle I wanted. The picture ultimately didn’t turn out because we were both laughing so hard that the pig kept flailing around and falling off of the chopstick! Like Marco and his family portrait, now every time I look at that minifigure, I smile.

lego-pig-fly
This is the final shot we got, a few days later – her personal favorite photo I’ve taken.

Jordan once saved my camera, a lens, and a minifigure from getting lost at sea! While I was bent down taking a shot at the beach, she quickly pulled me up as a wave came barreling towards me. She then grabbed the minifigure from the sand and managed to catch a lens that was falling out of my pocket.

lego-beach-ocean
This one’s dedicated to her and named after one of her favorite songs, California Dreamin’

Jordan has come up with great photo ideas of her own for me to take. She buys me LEGO sets she thinks will be fun to build or photograph together, and she always goes with me to feel up blind bags when the latest Collectible Minifigure series arrive. She even created a Sig Fig of her own, to accompany mine on his little adventures.

LEGO and photography are a huge part of my life, and it’s amazing to have someone to share it with. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, and it simply wouldn’t be possible without her.

Thanks for always being there, Jordan. I love you.

lego-selfie-jordan

-James

Do you have someone that you share this hobby with? Are they a photographer too, or an unsung hero like Jordan? Share your stories in the comments!

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One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do

Okay, so we’ve had posts about the magic of 3 and the power of 2, so now I feel I must advocate for 1 (or maybe just ramble about number symbolism).

One

Sure I’ve used various numbers of toys and figures in my photos, but I have a soft spot for one. That being said, I do tend to create solemn photos and 1 then comes to represent either lonliness, or  a solitary journey. This doesn’t mean, in the whole scheme of things that the figure is in life alone, but for this moment, when we see inside their head, they’re on a philosophical path that they must travel alone.

More

So then would 1 figure be solitude, 2 relationships, and 3 balance? Or at least this is my interpretation, but number symbolism in art is a thing – although not the easiest to research. Here’s what I’ve found so far for numbers 1 – 13. Check out the links below for further information on this sometimes odd list.

  1. unity, self, God, the universe
  2. opposites, duality
  3. mystical, spiritual, the family unit, beginning, middle & end, the Holy Trinity
  4. earth & body – the four elements, cardinal directions, yearly seasons, the four humors
  5. magic, human life
  6. perfection, days of creation
  7. astrology, virtue & vices, rest, music, luck
  8. resurrection of Christ, paradise
  9. pain, sadness
  10. completeness, finality
  11. negativity, monsters
  12. the zodiac
  13. bad luck

Sources:

  • https://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/math5.geometry/unit4/unit4.html
  • https://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/math5.geometry/unit8/unit8.html
  • https://www.britannica.com/topic/number-symbolism

While I love to sometimes consider color symbolism in my photos, I only very occasionally play with numbers. It’s interesting to see how numbers have been used historically, and I wonder how much this effects how people view the number of items in my photos and others.

One of these days, maybe I’ll create a 13 part series with items that represent each of the things in the list above…or maybe I’ll just stick to my beloved ‘1.’

Survival – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

What number is your favorite to use in your work? And what do you feel that number represents?

Jennifer Nichole Wells

A Busman’s Holiday

I’d never heard of a busman’s holiday before? Nor had I thought I’d ever been on one!

 noun: busman’s holiday

  1. a holiday or form of recreation that involves doing the same thing that one does at work.
    “a fire crew’s Christmas outing turned into a busman’s holiday when their coach caught fire”

While Shelly is away, I thought it would be a good opportunity to take some time off from shooting to take the wheel of the good ship Toy Photographers. I’d been running low on motivation and inspiration and thought this would be the perfect chance to recharge and reenergise. And while I thought I’d relish the break, I found myself doing what I usually do, a busman’s holiday.

Shelly and I share the load of the social media management. We take turns pushing posts out to IG and Facebook. We take the reins of the newsletter on alternate months, editing and sending out the weekly recap.

Just leave the subway a station
You’re on holiday, not vacation
Frenzal Rhomb – Holiday Not Vacation

Admittedly, it was my month to send out the newsletters, and with Shelly away, I only have an extra 3 or 4 social media shares to take care of each week. And, thanks to our wonderful regular contributors here, the posts take care of themselves. But the chance to step back from my creative slump and focus on the admin seemed just the thing I needed to recharge my creativeness. Or so I thought?

a busman's holiday
a busman’s holiday

With my self-imposed break from shooting, I found myself doing what I usually do. I was planning shots, scouting locations and even documenting the sun at different times in our backyard. And whilst I never pressed the shutter button once, I’m pretty sure I took more photos in my mind that I would’ve if I was shooting.

Not picking up the camera made me think more about ideas. So many concepts rattled around in my head. Planning shots that I had no immediate intention of shooting took more elaborate twists. Tales grew from simple ideas.

So, maybe a busman’s holiday was just the ticket I needed to get things back on route again?

– Brett

Have you ever taken some time off? Did you manage to actually take a break? Or did you find yourself doing what you usually do regardless?

If you’ve made through all my blathering and ended up here, you should sign up to our weekly email round up where you’ll get a recap of all the babbling from the week.
And while you’re doing things, you should definitely join our G+ Community where we hold monthly contests with prizes and lots of other cool stuff too.

Product Photography

**Just a disclaimer, this is not a critique on Kristina’s recent post. I completely understand her point, and relate. If you read between the lines, this post even reiterates a few of her points. This is instead a response to comments I’ve read and heard in the toy photography realm at large.**

Product v. Commercial Photography

‘Product photography’ seems to be a four-letter word in the toy photography community. A fear of a corner you’ll be placed in, an insult… But I don’t think it’s something to even remotely stress over.

Yes, toys are in part products, but the photos we create of them tell stories – they’re not items shot to specific standards against a stark white background.

If you were commissioned by a company to make a toy photo to their specifications, in most cases it would be commercial or adversarial work, but still not quite product photography.

The main difference is a creative photo platform v. a standardized one.

Product Photography

Product photography looks a bit like this:

However, in the photos above I used miniature toy products, not meant for individual consumption. I did photograph them to GS1 product photography standards. Yet, because of the subject matter, I’ve probably taken the whole thing out of the product photo arena anyway. These photos are useless as far as a manufacturer or retailer is concerned. But creating them allowed me to focus in on every minute detail of these already tiny pieces. I think there’s a statement to be made there. And product photography does not exist to make statements.

Commercial Photography

In terms of commercial toy photography, I think it’s really interesting for the public and brands to see how much life a toy photographer can breathe into their products and thus their advertising. A toy figure shot at various angles against a white background can be important in advertising for those wanting the technical details – figure size, articulation, detail, etc. But, to a child or collector, seeing that same figure realistically photographed in an atmospheric battle scene is so much more engaging and awe inspiring. A story can be woven around the figure, which burrows that product deeper in the consumer’s heart.

Needless to say, even with the most leeway, commercial photography isn’t for everyone. Some need complete creative control without these possible limitations.

Long story short…

unless you’re taking planogram and marketing shots of your action figures in their original packaging and then selling those images to a company, or using them to sell the product pictured, you are not even slightly a product photographer.

As you are, whether commercially or artistically, if you are telling a story through your toy photos rather than simply and starkly showing what a toy looks like, you are a creative photographer, a narrative toy photographer, maybe even a fine art photographer. And as long as you stick to your gut, no one can try to tell you otherwise.

Jennifer Nichole Wells

“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.”

-Paul Caponigro

What came first?

What came first? The chicken or the egg? The lyrics or the music? The setup or the idea?

We all have ideas bubbling away in our heads. Preconceived concepts tag along as we venture out to shoot plastic. Stories are already playing out before our subjects are posed before the lens.

But, sometimes those stories meander off into something new. New ideas come to light with out subject of choice before us. Concepts and notions twist, turn and evolve into another. Often we return with our initial ideas, concepts and tales shelved for another venture; another day.

And all this is cool! This is one of the many things I love about photographing toys. I love thinking up stories. The tales and concepts that emerge excite me. I also relish the twists and turns that inevitably occur when I’m out shooting. And the wonderful surprises of never considered outcomes is one of the greatest thrills of this “lying in dirt focussing in on toys” thing we do.

However…

However, this week I was asked to provide specificity around every proposed image that I been asked to create for a client; specific, precise and exact descriptions of each photo I plan on delivering to client.

But, I can’t even do that for myself?

What came first? The notion or the emotion?

What came first: Lyrics & music, eggs & chickens?
Lyrics & music, eggs & chickens?

If I promised myself every shot I had in mind before I headed off the beach, I’d greatly disappoint myself before the sand on my knees had time to dry. If I delivered what is often a vast deviation from the proposed outcome, I’d be disenchanted as the client. And as I, the client pointed out what was initially offered compared to what was delivered, I’d feel artistically restricted as the consultant not being allowed the opportunity to expand and explore possibilities and stories.

And…

The request for detailed a synopsis of what I’d deliver was daunting. But, there was another aspect to this request to factor in.

My specific descriptions of proposed photo outcomes we to highlight toys that I didn’t have yet. Now this might not sound like another complexity cog in this proposition wheel, but for me it was.

What came first? The preconception or the perception?

When we’re lucky enough to be sent Collectable Minifigures to photograph and review, I always start planning ideas before their arrival. It’s good to plan ahead. It helps to have a schedule for shooting and locations when I’m attempting to get the review uploaded as soon as possible after their arrival.

Yet, when the box arrives and the unpacking begins, the new Minifigures more times than not, demand a photo that was never envisaged before I had them in my hands. Often, my predetermined thoughts of what a particular Minifigure deserves is far from the mark. Repeatedly, new ideas emerge and plans are rewritten in the presence of the new arrivals.

So…

So, with Kristina’s words echoing in my head, I sent off my proposed ideas for the possible outcomes of shooting toys that hadn’t had their chance to tell me their stories. I explained that without the toys to talks to me, it was difficult to grasp what stories they wanted to be told.The twisting, turning nature of how my photos evolve was also explained.

I can only assume that, if a client understands that the toys speak to me, things will work out. 

Or maybe they’ll think I’m a complete nutbag and slowly recoil from the offer, smiling politely, and avoiding any sudden movements or noises!

– Brett

Are your concepts locked in prior to shooting? Do your stories twist and change once your toys are in front of the lens? Have you ever been asked to outline a photo without understanding the subject?

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When in Doubt, Accessorize!

When Shelly discussed her love of shooting in threes, I decided to take a look at my own catalog of images to see if there were similar patterns in my own work. Luckily, one quickly emerged: accessorizing.

Rather than bring together several elements to make a photo work, I sometimes like to add just a single accessory. These small but mighty pieces can carry the story all by themselves.

lego-cavewoman

Whether I’m in the occasional photo funk, or simply lacking concrete ideas, I take comfort in knowing I have this trick up my sleeve! I take out some minifigures, open up my containers of LEGO accessories, and mix and match! How would this figure look holding that accessory? Or if that minifigure was playing with this… Sometimes I get a chuckle out of a particular mashup, and will snap a pic. I won’t change anything else about the minifigure. Just the accessory.

lego-red-riding-hood

Take this shot, for example. The tale of Little Red Riding Hood changes dramatically with just one added accessory. Is she on the hunt for the Big Bad Wolf? Or did they already cross paths, and now she knows better than to enter the forest unprepared?

lego-ultron
Analog vs. Digital

Ultron is a fun minifigure, but I never found the right scenario for him until I paired him with this phone accessory I took from LEGO CMF Series 17. Now it’s a commentary on analog vs. digital, or just a fun shot of an angry Avengers villain being stumped by old technology.

lego-darth-vader
“He’s more machine now than man.”

A simple wind-up key takes this Vader portrait to the next level, and acts as a funny call back to Obi-Wan’s ominous words about him being “more machine than man.”

lego-groot

While I tend to pick accessories that feel out of place with my minifigure of choice, I sometimes find that keeping it simple can yield great results too. Case in point, Groot gazing peacefully at some flowers.

lego-viking
Fearless Warrior?

A simple teddy bear (a go-to favorite for many LEGO photographers) can add a lot to a scene, and make a fearless Viking warrior a lot more relatable.

I could go on, but I think you catch my drift. By playing a little game of mix-and-match, you can come up with some pretty great scenarios. Luckily, LEGO releases new accessories all the time, so there are endless possible pairings.

Needless to say, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one accessory! Adding multiple accessories, or adding more minifigures into the mix, can truly bring a scene to life!

lego-bigfoot
“Oh my god, it’s Bigfoot!”

What’s your favorite accessory/minifigure pairings? Do you stick to one accessory in particular, or find it impossible to pick just one?

James

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What if?

What if there were no social media sites?

What if there were no online ways to share images at all?

You could show your images to friends and family.

Find a like-minded community.

Post them on the walls of abandoned buildings.

Drag them from gallery to gallery hoping for interest.

Show them at art fairs hoping for sales.

Scatter them about the park or mall for a random stranger to find.

Stack them at the coffee shop counter.

Hang them on café walls.

Keep them to yourself.

What if there were no social media sites for us to post to instantly and hope for follows and likes?

 

Would you still create?

Would you still share your work?

What would change for you?

 

I don’t mean this as a critique. I mean this as a thought piece. It’s not bad if this would change things for you. In reality, it would change the way all of us create and share. It would have to. But, if you’ll humor me, and if you care to define them, use this as a jumping off point to think about your goals.

I think the more we know ourselves and what we intend to make, the better pieces we create.

 

Jennifer Nichole Wells

“We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.”

-Ralph Hattersley

A photo ripple is the perfect tipple

From just a single drop, inspiration radiates outwards in a beautiful ripple.

Dave recently wrote about taking on photography challenges to replenish the creative well when it’s running dry. This month, I was lucky enough to be part of a photo challenge for the first time on G+; a photo ripple.

One person posts a photo, then tags two to post a photo following the theme. Those two then post and tag two more, and so on and so on, resulting in a wonderful ripple of photos radiating out from just one; a casual sequence, a ripple effect.

The epicentre of the ripple, and the brains behind the concept, Wara Zashi, was kind enough to share a little background behind these ripples with me….

We started the first one back in April as a replacement for the end of month event. The monthly events were just G+ events where people could submit figure photos of their liking, as opposed to the weekly event which was topic based. But even before G+ essentially killed off events, the concept was starting to languish, so I wasn’t too happy with it.

I eventually pulled the plug on events and replaced them with ripples (named after the G+ Ripple feature which I really loved).

I figured if each person is named to continue the thread and also has to name two more, it should create a little bit more motivation to participate (classic chain letter). Our community is pretty small and self contained so if the chain grew large enough, it should get to enough people. And I also wanted to see if people would start to request to participate in some manner. 🙂

We did another one for May and June at the end of each month and at that point, people slowly trickled in enough over time and participated that we thought it would be useful to just have the event start at the beginning of the month and run for the whole month. Which is why July is missing since it became an extension of the June event.

ripple: What better reminder for the middle of summer than a little time out at the water enjoying the outdoors, even with the oppressive heatwave. Complete with a nice little floatie.
“What better reminder for the middle of summer than a little time out at the water enjoying the outdoors, even with the oppressive heatwave. Complete with a nice little floatie.” – Wara Zashi

With August, I was definitely looking to expand and see where this can go outside of the community so I thought it could be fun to drag in Shelly to see where she could take it since I know she would have a completely different group of people than our community.

ripple: Rather than send Butterfly Girl to the beach with her floaty, I sent her dancing in the sprinkler with her beloved teddy bear. In the heat, what better way to cool off than some low key fun at home.
“Rather than send Butterfly Girl to the beach with her floaty, I sent her dancing in the sprinkler with her beloved teddy bear. In the heat, what better way to cool off than some low key fun at home.” – Shelly

So far, I’m pretty happy with how it’s working (hopefully the community members/participants are as well). It’s structured, and unstructured, enough that people can do what they want. Ideally I would love to somehow enforce at least a template but people seem to get the general idea of what needs to be done.

ripple: After frolicking under a sprinkler, what better way to cool off than with an icy pole whilst paddling your feet in the cool waters of a lake?
“After frolicking under a sprinkler, what better way to cool off than with an icy pole whilst paddling your feet in the cool waters of a lake?” – Brett

It’s interesting to see, as the ripple grows, how people change it over time. On the toy photography side, it seems to have especially drifted into a chain where you give reasons for recommending and add to the already existing description to explain the chain. The figure side seems to have stuck to the original template a bit more and wants to connect the new post to the previous one through the photo and description.

ripple: Babies - Kiddie Pool
“Well, when sprinklers and ponds aren’t available, and you happen to be quite small, a kiddie pool will due just nicely to beat the summer heat. Look closely and you’ll see ducky peering over the edge.” – Jennifer

I’ve only given vague hints as to how each post is supposed to connect so it’s been interesting to see it evolve.

ripple: And sometimes (once you've grown up a little) you just use a hot day to chat on a cliff, waiting for the high tide to roll in...
“And sometimes (once you’ve grown up a little) you just use a hot day to chat on a cliff, waiting for the high tide to roll in…” – Tobias

At some point, I’ll add in some new concepts, but we’ll see how it goes over time. 🙂

These wonderful ripples are like a reverse game of pass the parcel; with every step, another layer is added. As these ripples radiate throughout communities, stories twist and turn, styles merge and divide. Sometimes the ripples fade, and sometimes they journey into wonderfully, unforeseen places; just like ripples do.

Just like Dave, I find challenges are wonderful source of motivation and inspiration. Being pulled into this ripple and being invited to help it grow was definitely so.

I’ve only included a few shots from the August ripple; it’s still radiating. But, from just these handfuls of shots, you can see how a single drop can produce wonderful results.

-Brett

Thank you Wara Zashi, for sharing your words and for the fantastic ripples you generate.

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Art as Therapy

Sometimes, life gets you down.

By the time you’re reading this article, it’s been written and re-written several times over. Just when I think I know how to gather my thoughts about this particular subject, I hit a roadblock and start fresh. What I learned is that I need to be honest from the jump: I’m having a hard time. I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m depressed, I’m disillusioned, I’m disappointed; I feel hopeless and powerless.

Depression is a very real issue that’s hard to talk about, and certainly one I felt nervous about discussing here at Toy Photographers. Luckily I was emboldened by Leila Cheiko, who used her art to speak up about her political frustrations, and Harley Quin, who did a wonderful and touching series about her own depression and how it effects her as an artist. So, here it goes…

lego-art-depression

About a month ago, I was hit with depression. Hard.

It invaded every aspect of my life. I felt sad the minute I woke up, I lost interest in things that usually brought me joy (like photography), I felt disconnected from my wife, friends, and co-workers. I felt alone, and most of all, guilty about being depressed. I bottled it in for several weeks, pretending like everything was normal and trying to just smile more and move on. Instead of letting myself feel it, I hid it away from myself, and the world.

This is, of course, not a healthy way of dealing with depression, and in the end it only made things worse. It wasn’t until my wife asked me to open up to her about it that I was able to face it head-on. Over time, it subsided and my life (generally) went back to normal. Such is the nature of depression: It has its ups and downs, it hits me at unexpected times, and can depart as quickly as it arrived.

One of the things that helped me get through it was art. More specifically, my art. I used to use photography simply as a way of telling the stories in my head, or putting jokes out there with fun setups and characters that I love. As I’ve grown as an artist, my photography has become more personal, and I’ve learned to use it as a method of self expression.

lego-art-therapy
Sometimes, art is the very best medicine

Art can be very therapeutic.

I’m not nearly qualified enough to speak on just how helpful it can be, or why; for that I recommend Alain de Botton’s book Art as Therapy and its accompanying website. I also found a great blog, which discusses the therapeutic nature of art in detail:

Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being… The creative process involved in expressing one’s self artistically can help people to resolve issues as well as develop and manage their behaviors and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness.

While I was able to overcome my latest bout of depression, I was hit with sadness again this past week. The threat of nuclear war and the sight of white supremacists rallying in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia will do that to you. Again, I felt hopeless and powerless in the face of evil. I felt angry at the world for being so dark. I wanted to disappear and shut myself away from all of it, while at the same time knowing I couldn’t just bury my head in the sand.

I’m still working through how I can turn to art, and specifically my own art, to help overcome this latest wave of darkness. I’m also thankful to have the supportive Toy Photographers community to lean on. We aren’t just a group of photographers sharing our work. We’re friends who are there for each other in times of need. Shelly helped me accept that I could turn to photography when I was sad, and not just as a means of therapy, but as a quick escape from the world. In a discussion we had on Google+, Shelly told me:

I think we have to allow ourselves to escape. Otherwise we will go crazy. Never apologize for directing your energies to art.

She’s absolutely right. So I will unapologetically go back into the studio, turn on my camera, and see what stories I can tell – either to escape the troubling current events for a little while, or work my way through them. One therapeutic photo at a time.

– James

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