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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My Latest Flame

I’ve taken a few shots this week that I’m really proud of. I was going to sit on them for a few days but I couldn’t wait to share at least one of them. The arrival of the new Last Jedi SDCC Exclusives has really given me a kick to get out and shoot more. These two new figures are characters that will feature heavily in the new film, but they also have uncertain paths to take.

I, like many others, can’t wait for the next Star Wars film. Although I try to stay pretty spoiler-free, getting these new figures has given me the opportunity to  make up some of my own stories and add to the intrigue associated with the future of these two characters. It’s part of what toy photography is all about for me – telling the untold story through images. It can sometimes be challenging, when a character and their history are very well known, to tell a different kind of story; however, going off-cannon and making up different adventures for them can be both fun and exciting. It can also take you back to the way you used to play with these toys as a child. Back then, you might not have even seen some of the films starring some of your toys, but that never stopped you from taking them out on your own adventures in your back garden.

A favourite figure is something that changes so often for me. It’s often a Star Wars or a Lego related one, but usually it’s something that connects me with childhood memories of the toys I used to play with. There’s a rich history associated with releasing Star Wars figures before the next film, sometimes even before we have any idea who the character is (for example, Boba Fett).

For that reason, these two new figures are my current favorites despite a slightly dodgy paint finish here and there, and they’ve helped to remind me why I love toy photography.

Inevitably, a week or a month or so later, the next shiny figure pops up on my wanted list and I’ll convince myself that I absolutely need it for ‘that’ shot. When everyday life gets in the way of creativity, and it feels too difficult to dig out the motivation to get out and shoot, a new figure can really help spark your imagination.

Chris Rose

You can follow Chris on Instagram and G+. 

Being in the Game

The very first play in The Photographer’s Playbook asks the reader to figure out what game they’re playing. So, I say to myself, “I’m creating because I have a creative drive.” But this needs to go deeper. What are my goals, how do I intend to achieve them, and what is the best way to go about this? All things I have very vague answers to in my head.

And then I remembered a quote from Netflix’s The Incredible Jessica James, spoken by real world playwright Sarah Jones.

“And you’re doing it. That’s why we’re here right? This is it! There’s kinda not more to it than that.”

Continue reading Being in the Game

The Inspiration Challenge

It is probably not a shock to anyone reading this that I believe toy photography to be a very creative art form that is full of creative artistic people. One of the most blissful times in a creative person’s life is when inspiration hits and creativity flows thru them like a torrential rainstorm. However when inspiration dries up and ideas are as scarce as water in the desert, well, those times are tough.

I believe it is important for a creative type to push thru these dry times, and strive to create new things even when inspiration is lacking. For working professional photographers these dry times can often be survived by pouring oneself into projects for their clients. However as Joe McNally is fond of saying, one needs food for the table, and food for the soul. If you are a pro your clients provide the food for the table, however you still need to find food for your soul in terms of personal projects. If you are an amateur like most toy photographers are, it’s all food for the soul. Continue reading The Inspiration Challenge

The Tricky Trio: The 3 Hurdles of Every Photo

Just yesterday, Shelly wrote about the power of the number three in photography. Little did she know, I was writing an article centered on the number three as well! I wasn’t thinking of how magical it can be, but about how there are three stages to taking a photo: the Idea, the Setup, and the Execution.

The idea actually came from my wife! She was looking over some of my recent pictures when she mused, “I love how you have to constantly problem solve before you get to the final product!” When I asked her what she meant, she explained that the three aforementioned stages each have unique problems to be solved. Some require a hat trick to complete; others may only have one or two hurdles to clear. As I applied this way of thinking to my catalog of images I realized that every single one had at least one problem I successfully solved. Continue reading The Tricky Trio: The 3 Hurdles of Every Photo

Am I Creating Art?

Art as Emotion

“Art is the expression of those beauties and emotions that stir the human soul.”

– Howard Pyle

Art is an extension of the way we each feel about the world.

Emotions are what make us human. The fact that no matter how different our backgrounds, we all grieve, feel joy and show anger, is something that connects each of us on a deeper level – it bonds us together in this human experience. It can be so important to feel through every experience, good or bad. And negative emotions can be just as beautiful as the positive. Without the bad there is no good. Continue reading Am I Creating Art?

Playtime to Stay Prime

Whether it’s taking time, or making time, getting some toy playtime can lead to some toy photography time that you didn’t know about. Playtime with toys can be not only cathartic, it can also be invigorating and energising when it comes to finding toy photography stimulus.

toy
[toi]
noun
1. an object, often a small representation of something familiar, as an animal or person, for children or others to play with; plaything
2. something that serves for or as if for diversion, rather than for serious practical use.
adjective
3. made or designed for use as a toy.
verb
4. to amuse oneself; play.

My desk at work is strewn with a constantly changing selection of LEGO and toys. It’s where a lot of my inspiration comes from. I bring a new batch of toys each week to play with and see if their stories emerge from our playtime. I’ll find myself playing with LEGO or figures while I try to figure out coding problems, mentally map out solutions, debate whether I should send that email or censor it, or sometimes when I probably should be paying more attention during phone calls. Continue reading Playtime to Stay Prime

Learning to Travel with Toys

In my post a couple weeks ago I declared –

that in my upcoming travel toy photos I wanted to have “a reason for the location and [to] find a way to interact with [my] new environment.”

During my 2 weeks out of state, I took a ton of pictures –

most of a touristy nature with no toys present. But, one night I did find myself at a sculpture park, with the perfect opportunity to put to use my 2″ tall plastic, electric dollhouse chandelier that I brought with me. I purchased the chandelier with the idea of creating outdoor rooms, of playing with the juxtaposition of inside v. outside space and therefore a looking out on new opportunities, new starts, open windows and doors. Continue reading Learning to Travel with Toys

A New Perspective

“The world sure seems different from down here, doesn’t it, Scott?”

-Hank Pym, Ant-Man (2015)

I tend to spend a great bit of time and energy hunting new sources of inspiration for my photography. I do this by looking at other people’s photos, getting feedback from and interacting with my peers, or participating in challenges.

The easiest way to find inspiration is to simply add a new LEGO set, minifigure, or accessory to my collection. This usually leads to at least one new photo, or I get lucky and it opens up a whole new series for me to dive into. Continue reading A New Perspective