Fair Play – Part III

At the risk of beating a dead horse  I want to revisit the issue of fair play and Lego System A/S that we talked about last week.  Me2 and I don’t always see eye to eye and his habit of adding the TM symbol to his words has always seemed pretentious to me, but after last week I think he is on the right track (he just promised me he will elaborate on his Why™ in another post here pretty soon).

Our original post was re-posted to Reddit and the reaction was alarming in its passivity. It seems that most fans in the Lego universe are more than happy to let Lego roll right over them without even a whimper as they believe it would only impact those who would want to sell their work. The over riding sentiment expressed in the comments was that Lego was well within their legal rights and that we, their customers, fans and LEGO artists need to watch our step.

Seriously? What has this world come too when we think corporations have the right to tell us how to create, show and ultimately sell our own creations? What would Andy Warhol have said if the Campbell’s Soup company had sent him a cease and desist order when he first exhibited his now iconic soup cans? I am pretty sure he would have laughed and kept printing his silk screens. So why are we taking this sitting down?

If the Andy Warhol example is too esoteric for you how about this one which hits a little closer to home: Peter Reid. If you are not familiar with Peter Reid he created the fabulous book LEGO Space published by No Starch Press. Oh and he is also the guy who designed Lego Ideas #6135: Exo Suit. You may have heard of it? You probably own one since Lego has been selling it for a few months now. I want to respectfully point out to Lego System A/S that you can’t have it both ways.

Recently a related issue was brought to my attention regarding a popular company (Ikea) and it’s enthusiastic fans (IkeaHackers). Last summer Ikea tried to shut down the popular web site that is dedicated to finding new and more interesting ways to use Ikea furniture. There was a public outcry and Ikea backed down. I guess it doesn’t pay to piss off your devoted core.

Do you really think that if Lego System A/S got nasty and removed ALL photos with Lego imagery off RedBubble and related sites (yes, including Flickr since the basis of the IP infringement claim starts at publishing and Flickr has been making noises about monetizing fan art uploaded onto their website) that the outcry wouldn’t be as outraged as the Ikea controversy? I am pretty sure it would be more financially damaging in terms of bad publicity and a pissed off fan base than any revenue lost due to these “illicit” products.  No one likes a $14.6 billion dollar bully.

Personally I think we are all well within our rights to photograph our toys and sell the images as a unique piece of art to enjoy in your home (we are not talking about licensing stock photography here to be used in a commercial campaign as that is a completely different topic, and we fully recognize that). I am pretty sure most of these artists photos would not be confused with Lego’s own marketing campaigns or franchise business and the financial damage (if any) the company might be incurring is well lets be real…it’s minimal and far less than the community gives back exponentially. If Lego doesn’t like us creating art with their shiny plastic bricks and having us share this with the world, than they should speak out now with a clarified Far Play notice rather than these random take down notices.

This whole fair play discussion is not about the ultimate sale of a piece of art (that is just the financial recognition that someone liked what you did), but about the fact we should own the unrestricted rights to do with our art what we want (as long as it does not violate any other laws like discriminating or racial ones), which is to share, publicize and ultimately gain some financial recognition from it if we choose to do so.

I for one will continue to promote my work with the ultimate end game of monetizing it. While I am not interested in selling through RedBubble, I applaud those who do. If I ever get a “cease and desist” order, personally I am going to laugh all the way to the fireplace where I will promptly burn it.

So I say to Big INC™, I am not afraid of you and I am tired of being bullied by you!

~ xxsjc

Should we let this topic die a slow death or keep talking about it?

Who knew?
Who knew?

Building Debates, a new Lego blog

I will admit that the needs of the Lego community are pretty specific and for most of the general public, full of minutia. So when a new blog like Building Debates comes along (Thank you Julie for alerting us!) that deals with Lego topics we want to share it with you.

Building debates only has two posts to date, Building a  Case for Lego Art and Authentic/Inauthentic Lego or what’s the right way to build?, but both articles deal with issues very near and dear to any Lego fans heart.

I hope you will take a moment to check out this blog and join the discussion. As our Lego community continues to find its voice beyond BrickCon’s, BrickSet, Lego Ideas and of course Instagram, blog’ s like Building Debates will help us break from our niche status and into the mainstream,

I hope you will give it a read.

~ xxsjc

If you checked out this blog, I would be curious to know your thoughts? 

An Oasis in the Desert

Dinoczars-2

Eight months ago, Shelly (@xxsjc) Paul (@bricksailboat) Nick (@wiiman) and I sat at a bar in Seattle, enjoying a cold beer on a warm afternoon, having just finished a group photography outing. We marveled at the engaging experience our photo safaris tended to be and decided to invite others to come meet us… in Las Vegas.

Last weekend, I found myself in the beautiful Nevada desert taking photos of toys with a dozen other people. They had traveled from miles away to hang out (and in my case bunk) with folks they had never met. Each had their own artistic abilities, interests and styles, but the rocky landscapes seemed to bring out everyone’s best. Figures were borrowed and techniques were discussed, all with a peppering of laughter and playful competition. We got to know each other throughout the weekend, but nothing was more impressive to me than the positive attitudes and good-natured sensibilities that I encountered from this amazing group of artists.

While waiting to board my flight home I thought about why I felt so good. Why did I have such a strong sense of pride about a silly little meet-up? Two things come to mind. First, because we actually did it. People talk all the time about things they ‘want to do’ but we just did it. That is tragically rare and utterly awesome. Secondly, because I have been fortunate to photograph toys with my friends and it was wonderful to help others see how great that can be. Photography tends to be an isolating experience in many ways, but if you can go shooting with another person it becomes altogether different, if not improved.

We’ve begun talking about the next #toyphotosafari and I look forward to seeing my friends again, but nothing has me more excited than the thought of adding to our numbers. Finding others who love to take pictures of toys, bringing them together and share the fun of group photo sessions; that’s the new challenge and reward ahead.
That’s why I feel so good.
Jaiken – @dinoczars

Dinoczars-3

#vegastoyphotosafari

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you have heard me mention the Las Vegas toy photography meet up for several months. I even wrote a series of posts about some of the people who I was excited to meet. This past weekend all that planning and anticipation paid off in four fun filled days in Las Vegas, Nevada, when 12 toy photographers met up to take photos, eat, share and even toy shop together for the amazing #vegastoyphotosafari.

Day one started out slowly as people trickled into town. While a few early birds managed to sneak off for some location scouting and toy photography in the desert the rest of us checked in to the Flamingo Hotel and got settled.  Later that evening we all met up for dinner at In ‘n Out burgers which turned out to be the perfect place for some casual conversation and of course a few toy photos.

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Group photo courtesy of Wikitoybox

No, Las Vegas convention would be complete without lanyards and our good friend Cindy (@coney_dogg) surprised us all with custom lanyards so we would fit right in with all the other visiting conventioneers.

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Photo courtesy of Brickandmordor

On day two we headed out to the desert together to photograph at Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area. It was a beautiful sunny day and the red rocks and desert scenery where a wonderful back drop for our toys. {A big thank you to Dennis (@krash_overide), Josh (@papajov) and Dean (@dean80s)} for providing transportation!) The time flew by as we moved to different locations in the park taking advantage of the scenery and changing light.

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Image courtesy of Bricksailboat

After dinner we met up in one of the hotel rooms for a more intimate evening of sharing toys, prints and laughter. Josh surprised us that evening with a toy raffle. Names were pulled from a “hat” and toys were chosen by the winners. It was interesting to see what toys people picked, there were even a few unexpected choices made. We also enacted our photo print exchange. Everyone was instructed to bring 20 copies of one image and we would exchange prints. I think we all agreed this was a great way to remember everyone and the work that they do.

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Image courtesy of xxSJC

On day three our local contact Sean (@amptoys_2), took us to an abandoned lot in downtown Vegas were several houses where covered in graffiti.  This was an interesting location choice because it encouraged most of us to stretch beyond our comfort zones. Watching each photographer approach this unique environment was interesting and several of us commented how much of a challenge it was.

After that we hit the toy stores, three of them. It was fun to watch the veteran toy collectors approach the toys and make their purchases. Those of us new to toy collecting or strictly Lego, learned a lot about collecting and the sheer variety of toys on the market. Between the raffle and the shopping I think everyone went home with more toys than they arrived with.

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Josh and Cindy go shopping! Image courtesy of brickandmordor 

By day four we had lost a few of our attendees due to differing travel schedules, so the last of the die hards decided to go back out to the dessert for one last photo adventure. Since this was our third day of shooting together there was no awkwardness. Everyone settled into the environment with their toys and got to work. Occasionally we would compare notes, show a recent photo we where proud of or join our toys up in some group photos. It was a very productive and enjoyable morning.

Now it was time for our final goodbyes. Already there had been lots of hugs and big smiles as we looked back on our action packed weekend. Luckily this bittersweet parting was made palatable as plans were already being made for future get togethers.

This event was incredibly successfull for all involved! We all left Las Vegas richer in friends and photographs; the two things that make the Instagram toy community so special.

~ xxSJC

Below is an Instagram feed of the photos we took over these four days. Since most of us took hundreds of photos this tag will continue to grow over the next few weeks and months as we post our edited photos. I hope you will continue to check back and see all the photos as the #vegastoyphotosafari tag grows. 

[instagram-feed type=hashtag hashtag=”#vegastoyphotosafari” imageres=full]

Think Like an Artist

Today is the day that I wish I could write better. The concepts rattling around in my head are bigger than I can express coherently. All these thoughts began to percolate when I attended a talk last week at the Bryan Ohno Gallery that was billed  as the first in a series of improvisational sessions around the topic “Think Like an Artist.”

As I was listing to Bryan talk to the various attendees on creativity, I heard  painters, sculptors and writers talk about their craft, it dawned on me how different the problems of photography are. Photography is not like other traditional arts mediums, we are more aligned with the music and writing industries.

So these thoughts go something like this:

  • How do you stay relevant in an industry that any one with a camera phone and an Instagram account can call themselves a photographer?
  • How can your work be seen when 70 million photos are posted to Instagram daily?
  • How can museums and galleries redefine themselves when these traditional gatekeepers and curators are no longer necessary?
  • Is this explosion of art creation the beginning of a new golden age of art?
  • When the creation of art becomes a part of our daily lives, and not something that is  seen as an activity of the special and gifted, isn’t this ultimately a good thing?

Which brings me to the final question asked to me by my good friend Kitty who is helping to promote the StuckinPlastic exhibition in March:

  • How do I define success for this show?
  • What do I want to have happen that will make me feel this show has met my expectations?

Community building, not sales have been my focus for the past two years. I have very low expectations of selling any work, although it would be nice bonus for all of us who are involved. Plus I have no faith in the art establishment to “get it”; toy photography is not exactly high brow. Basically I have know idea what success will look like.

Maybe just meeting Me2 and Avanaut for the first time in person, showing my friends, family and my city exactly what makes the toy community so wonderful will be enough.

So now you have an idea how this artist thinks; confusion, doubt and hope, all in equal measure.

~ xxsjc

Two Lego Chima birds gather their weapons in preparation for battle, toy photography
“I will prepare…”

 

I would love to hear your response to any or all of these questions? I know it is a lot to take in, but I value your input. 

What Else Did I Miss?

I have always felt that a university education is wasted on the young. I went straight to college after graduating from high school and I always felt this was a mistake. So when I picked up a new book last month called 101 Things to Learn in Art School I was intrigued to see what I had missed the first time around. It turns out a lot.

File this under things I have never thought about:

Photography forever altered our compositional sense. 

“The camera with its viewfinder that samples a portion of the world, changed our relationship to the frame. The understanding that the frame is artificial and that the world extends beyond it affects the way we compose images. Painters, such as Degas, allowed the frame to cut into figures and objects, implying that part of the subject lay outside of the view of the image. This was a radical change from the centered image of traditional painting where the space inside the frame was a metaphor for the world. Now, we see the edges of pictures as being vital and compositionally active, not dormant and arbitrary.” ~ 101 Things to Learn in Art School by Kit White

This seems at once so obvious and yet so completely foreign to me. In the photography world you hear so much about the Rule of Thirds, but that is only one approach; and a rather safe one at that.

As I move forward into the new year and continue to practice the art of toy photography, I will be paying more attention to this frame and its relationship to the subject. It is time to move beyond the old standard “rule of thirds” and be a little more daring.

I wonder what else I missed in art school?

~ xxsjc

Resistance is Futile

 

Why? and 20,000 Days on Earth

If you have been a reader of this blog for a while you know I love my documentaries, especially ones that illuminate the creative process like Marwencol and Burden of Dreams. When I finally sat down to watch 20,000 Days on Earth I was struck by how this pseudo documentary depicting a day in the life of Nick Cave was pertinent to our continuing series on creativity: “Why?

Drama and reality combine in a fictitious 24 hours in the life of musician and international cultural icon Nick Cave. With startlingly frank insights and an intimate portrayal of the artistic process, the film examines what makes us who we are, and celebrates the transformative power of the creative spirit. Written by Pulse Films

I am pretty sure that the amazing Nick Cave will never write for our blog, so I urge you to take the time to watch this wonderful documentary. If you are interested in music, the creative process and how an artists approaches his work not only on a daily basis but over a life time you will be enthralled.

~ xxsjc

nick-cave-skateboards

When I first saw this photo I immediately thought that Nick Cave would make a great action figure. Luckily I know someone who can create one for me. Hopefully there will be images of Nick Cave brooding on my Instagram feed in the not too distant future. 

Do you have a favorite documentary that depicts the creative process you would like to recommend? 

 

Je Suis Charlie

If being part of this toy photography community has taught me anything, it is that we are all connected. We are one planet, one people with many of the same hopes, dreams, cultural touchstones and pastimes. The reaction to the horror that was yesterdays news was played out in the toy community just like it was everywhere else.

I am proud of my fellow Lego photographers who posted their own poignant responses to Wednesdays tragedy.  TheCourtous created the following image that was reposted by many in the community.

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“Don’t be afraid” by TheCourtous

I have posted before about playing with toys while the world burns around us, but this time I want to make a stand. I am tired of being afraid to say what I think. I don’t want to feel like the terrorists have won because we are the silent majority.

When I see a comment like this:

“Must we bring Islamic State into the lego community? Nice pick and caption but lets keep it politic free please. Or God only knows what would happen.”

I know the answer is a resounding “Yes! If not now, when?”

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Je Suis Charlie by AdultFanofLego

I know the threads that bind us are tenuous, but they are there. If we can find a connection through Instagram and our mutual love of toys I know we can find them over other issues. Now more than ever it is important for us to reach across to our fellow humans (no matter what their beliefs or their religion) and extend the hand of friendship.  Our community is filled with children and young adults; we must show them that there is a better way. A way filled with tolerance, understanding and a willingness to put aside our differences for the sake of the larger community which we all belong, it’s called humanity.

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Je Suis Charlie by MiniFigLife

Personally I don’t care what a persons religious beliefs are, I support everyone’s freedom to say what is on their mind in a respectful way. But I can’t turn over the world I currently inhabit to my kids without something changing. I hope that we can learn from our experiences here within this community and change the world around us, one toy photographer at a time.

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Je Suis Charlie by HLMLego

As we continue to grieve for the families of those who lost their lives on Wednesday, January 7th I hope you will join with me to help strengthen our bonds and raise our voices in protest. Enough is enough.

Thank you for listening.

~ xxsjc

If you have any comments about the Lego communities reaction or your own to these latest tragic events, please share them below. The more we talk, the more bridges we can build. 

The Runaway Bunny

I try to not talk about projects I am working on until they are completed. There is this weird phenomena that takes place if you talk about a project too much…it never happens. At least that is my personal experience. This is why I am just now telling you about my all consuming fall 2014 project: recreating Margaret Wise Brown’s classic children’s book The Runaway Bunny using Lego photos that I took.

You may have noticed an increase in Lego bunny rabbit shots on both this blog and on my Instagram feed last fall and now you know why.

I was approached last spring to do a Lego photography book based on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick but that project fell through. Even though I was disappointed by this, it did inspire me to look for another similar project. I dismissed Moby Dick and several other books, both short and long, for a variety of reasons and eventually settled on The Runaway Bunny.

I set myself a strict deadline of December 1st for completion so I would have time to get it printed and wrapped up for my children by Christmas Eve. (I have found looming deadlines to be a good defense against the inevitable procrastination.)

I had a great time on this project and discovered some shots, like this one, were fun and easy to get.

The final photo from The Runaway Bunny where mother bunny offers her wayward offspring a carrot when he finally returns home.
“Have a carrot.”

While others, like this one, I chased for several months.

Mother bunny from The Runaway Bunny is fishing for her wayward son who has decided to be a fish instead of a bunny.
“I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.”

If you were a recipient of my Best of 2014 Legography book you know that two of the images created for this project were in my top 12 for the year. I couldn’t have been more pleased with how my first completed book project turned out.

Here is my initial take away on the project:

  • Goals are good.
  • Complicated shots need to be pre-arranged before you hit the great outdoors.
  • Working within a specific frame work is creativly freeing.
  • Hand made books make awesome gifts.
  • The Runaway Bunny is not as well known as Goodnight Moon even though they are by the same author / illustrator team and have much in common.

Now that I am free from the constraints of this book project, my typical free form style of shooting seems rather boring and meaningless. I guess it is time to look around for another book project!

~ xxsjc

Do you have any suggestions for a book you would like to see recreated with Lego photography? 

Wikitoybox

Its hard to believe that the great Las Vegas Toy Photograper meet up is less than two weeks away! A small idea conceived amongst friends so many months ago is about to take place. Besides seeing old friends,  I am looking forward to meeting three long time Instagram friends. I have already talked about Captain Kaos and Krash_Override and today I want to introduce you to Ki Chen otherwise known as Wikitoybox. Ki is a breath of fresh air on Instagram. Not only does she take wonderful photos with her iPhone, she designs her own toys and is a positive voice within the toy community.

Ki has created her own line of resin toys around colorful poop. In a community dominated by guys I am sure you can image that these have been very popular. (I hear she will be bringing them with her to Vegas and I will have to pick up a few more.)

I Poop When I Steal by Ki Chen
I Poop When I Steal by Ki Chen

I am always impressed with what Ki can accomplish with her phone; she is a master of the photo edit. She knows when to use those specialty photography applications to benefit the overall image rather than overwhelm it.

I Swear it Wasn't Me! by Ki Chen
I Swear it Wasn’t Me! by Ki Chen

I find I am drawn to toy photographers that mix up their feeds with more than just Lego toys. There is so much happening in the collectable toy universe that it is fun to see what is new and has people excited.

Optimus Needs Help With the Level on Zelda by Ki Chen
Optimus Needs Help With the Level on Zelda by Ki Chen

Sometime you see a shot that is just plain beautiful on every level,  like this image of a dunny being painted by HO model railroad people. The lightening, sense of scale and short depth of field make this a really fantastic image; one of my favorites by Ki.

There’s Always Room for Improvement by Ki Chen

Of course it is not lost on me that Ki is one of the most respected members of the toy photography community. She is a wonderful photographer, dedicated toy designer and she commands the respect of her peers within the community through her gentle and kind nature.

Ki Chen is one of those amazing people who make the toy community a better place and I look forward to taking our online friendship to a new level.

~ xxsjc