The Bryan Ohno Gallery

We have talked much about the photographers behind the LEGO photography show In LEGO, We Connect, but we have not mentioned the man who has made it all possible: Bryan Ohno of the Bryan Ohno Gallery. I would like to take a moment to talk about what led to this partnership as well as to thank him for his own leap of faith.

Bryan and I go way back to a time when I was creating beautiful sensual underwater figurative photography. We had worked together for a few years in the early 2000’s; which seems a life time ago. When Bryan contacted me in the summer of 2013 to ask me to show my work in an upcoming show on sensuality, I was both surprised and pleased to rekindle our friendship. I had to explain to him that my energies had moved away from figurative work and I had discovered a new passion – toy photography. Although I decided to participate in the Get Naked show, I knew that I ultimately wanted to show my LEGO photography in his gallery. I would just have to prove to him it was worthy of his time.

I really like Bryan’s motto: “to feature works that blur the line between art and science, challenge art traditions, and embrace evolving cultural intersections.” I really feel strongly that what Me2, Avanaut and I create with LEGO falls squarely under this philosophy. It really felt like a perfect match of gallerist and artists.

If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting Bryan he is full of boundless energy. He is quick to smile, easy to interact with and makes the whole process of collecting art fun and never intimidating. I have spent many an afternoon engaged in spirited discussion with Bryan about whoever he is currently showing. My favorite was his recent showing of Yumiko Glover. I am still pondering her work and its multiple meanings.

When I presented my idea of a group show of only Lego toy photographers back in the summer of 2014, Bryan will be the first to say it was my passion for this project that piqued his interest. Over the course of a few months we had several conversations regarding the state of photography, Lego, and talked about calendar placement. I did my best to educate him on everything I knew about toy photography, Instagram and the amazing Lego community that I am a part of. By the fall of 2014 we knew when the show would open and who our major players would be. (Trust me when I say I had to take my own leap of faith when I approached Avanaut to participate.)

I tell you all this because this show is a true partnership of artists / curator and now collectors. Me2, Avanaut and I would love to have the opportunity to do this again both at Bryan’s charming gallery, or some other gallery in this big wide world. But to do that, we have to show that there is an audience for our work.

If you get a chance to check out the gallery and the show in person, be sure and take a few moments to get to know Bryan. Thank him for  taking his own leap of faith in presenting this unique show. And if you have the wall space, I hope you will consider supporting his gallery by purchasing some LEGO photography. By doing this you will ensure that he will continue to present interesting shows that reflect and embrace these evolving cultural intersections that Lego photography inhabits.

~ xxsSJC

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An Audience of One

In yesterday‘s post, Avanaut mentioned his personal guiding light Stuart.  If you are not familiar with the story, please give it a read. As an artist it is always good to know who your audience is. For Vesa it is a 10 year old boy, for me, my audience is decidedly different. In many ways my audience is just one person: me.

Now I know that sounds self centered, but hear me out. I am a very driven and intense person who works way too much. I worry about everything, even things I know I can’t change.  The state of our world makes me wonder why I even had kids. Sound familiar? Even if it doesn’t, for me, photographing toys is a very necessary escape and a way to reconnect with my inner child.

We don’t stop playing because we grow old: we grow old because we stop playing.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

When I started on this Instagram journey three years ago it was to see if I could rediscover my love of photography (something I had lost seven years earlier), and nothing more. Along the way I have connected with an amazing community of like minded toy photographers that span the globe and have learned to take myself a whole lot less seriously. I have even begun to discover a sense of humor I didn’t even know I had.

In January of 2014 I posted this to IG with the tag line: “My New Years’s Resolution is to take myself less seriously.” Honestly, I think I should have made the same resolution this year and every year going forward.

I will not deny that this month has been a roller coaster ride that at times has overwhelmed me. Some part of me wants to run away and hide in a hole and wait for this to blow over. But yesterday I received this comment on photo I had posted on one of the many social media platforms I play on: “Your photos always delight. Never doubt that.” It made me realize there are other “me’s” out there who need to be reminded that play is good, that the world isn’t ending anytime soon and that it is important to reconnect with our inner child.

“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

So no matter what happens in the coming months, I will continue to move forward creating the imagery that I love and hope that I can bring joy and a shared love of the little plastic people to adults like me. Adults who are often stressed out and overwhelmed by this age that we live in and need to be reminded to slow down and reconnect with their inner child.

~ xxSJC

"I've...seen things people wouldn't believe..."
“I’ve…seen things people wouldn’t believe…”

The Why of Editions

One thing we have not talked a lot about on the blog is selling our work. Our ultimate goal is to create a self sustaining loop of creators and collectors of amazing toy photography. Since photography is easily reproduced the concept of editions is an important one to address.

All three of us, Boris, Vesa and myself, came to our edition numbers in very different ways. But each of us wanted to create a unique object that both the collector and the creator would know has immediate and sustained value.

Much of Vesa’s work flow is limited by his creative work process and his day job.  Many of his photographs are created for and owned  by his clients. Because of these restraints he decide to edition his seven prints for sale in editions of three. This certainly makes his amazing images all the more appealing.

Boris is also limited by time and his creative process so I was surprised when he decided to sell his works as one of a kind prints. Once that amazing piece “The Dark Knight” (see above) is sold, there will be no other.  In a world that is inundated by photographic images this really creates a special and very dramatic statement. My hat is off to Boris for creating work for the discriminating collector.

I also decided to sell my work as one of a kind pieces. I tend to be rather prolific in my shooting, but only a rare few will ever make it to a gallery wall. Unlike Vesa, who is approaching his work as a cinematographer, I approach my work as a painter. I want my works to be experienced as you would a painting and selling them as unique images seems to get to the heart of that concept.

We have no idea what the future will hold for our little collective; certainly the work and the show has been well received. But will that be enough to inspire us to continue? I have no idea. I am hopefull that a few brave souls will step forward and help us begin to build that amazing collector creator loop that we all dream of.

~ xxSJC

A classic white spaceman strides cross the empt beach at sunset, by xxsjc
If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler

In Lego, we Connect runs through April 11th. If you get a chance I hope you will stop by the gallery to see the work in person. It is a rare opportunity to see this work as it was always intended, large and impeccably printed. 

Opening Night

Opening night is an evening that is both dreaded and anticipated by any artist. I spent much of last week ignoring opening night (denial is not just a river in Egypt), but the appointed time did arrive and we all made our way to the Bryan Ohno Gallery.

I am not going to bore with my ramblings on what was a fast paced evening and a blur of people stopping by to see the show. But I will share with you a few photos from the amazing Jim Bennett who was kind enough to photograph the evening’s festivities for us. You know what they say…a picture is worth a thousand words.

~ xxSJC

The show continues through April 11th; I hope you will get  a chance to see the work in person. I know I speak for all three of us when I say we are very proud of what we created. 

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Photo Walk

One of the events that we organized around the opening of In LEGO, We Connect was the Saturday afternoon photo walk at Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park. Originally this was going to be an event aimed at meeting up with existing Instagram friends, but we opened it up to anyone who was interested. This ended up being a terrific decision.

The photo walk was a great way to avoid the inevitable let down that occurs after a major event, like a gallery opening. It was good to keep busy engaged in the craft that we all love – photographing toys. Doing it with friends was an added bonus. Eventhough I have engaged in this activity before, most notably the Epic Las Vegas Toy Photo Safari, I believe it was a relatively new activity for Boris and Vesa.  They appeared to jump right in and had a great time

Since this event was publicly advertised we had a few new recruits who embraced the whole concept with gusto. It was so much fun seeing local rock photographers Sunita and Stephanie, as well as 16yo Cameron and 10yo Ava get down and dirty with their toys as if they had been doing it forever. According to Ava’s mom, Ava felt it was the best day ever, getting to photograph along side the “big dogs”.  Even though Sunita and Stephanie didn’t bring any toys along, there was plenty to share. Toys were arranged, photographed and borrowed through out the afternoon.

It was a beautiful sunny day on Puget Sound and there were plenty of smiles to go around as everyone enjoyed the fun that only photographing toys with friends can provide.

A personal highlight for me, beyond mentoring Cameron and Ava, was watching Avanaut walk off with my newest raptor to take a few photos. Not exactly what I would have expected from the king of Star Wars Lego photography, but I am looking forward to seeing the results.

As the past weeks excitment fades into a distant dream, I know that any feelings of depression are going to be mitigated as I begin the process of editing all the photos I took throughout the week. I am also looking forward to taking a few of these new converts out on another toy photo adventure and continue to grow our community well into the future.

~ xxSJC

Feel free to contact me if you want to arrange a photo walk here in Seattle. I’m always up for a toy photo safari. 

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Vesa playing with his new friend.
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Wiiman showing the newbies how its done.
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Cameron and his mom Gwen.
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As Boris captures some excellent bokeh, Vesa encages in a popular photo walk activity – sniping.

Leap of Faith

There are not enough superlative adjectives to describe the week that just transpired: excellent, magnificent, wonderful, marvelous, remarkable, unparalleled and of course…awesome. But before any of that could transpire, a tremendous leap of faith had to be taken by all three principle members of StuckinPlastic.

When I went to pick up Boris and his wife at the airport I told my husband: I don’t know who these people are! Sure we are internet friends, we have shared a blog for over a year, we e-mail regularly, talk occasionally and have even had two video hang outs…these feelings of doubt were not new, but the timing was terrible.

I told my good friend Kitty, who I had hired to help with publicity, that my biggest goal for the week was to connect with Boris and Vesa and cement our friendship. This was more important to me than publicity, a successful opening or even sales. Without their trust, friendship and faith I knew we could never move forward.

I had my first indication that it would be ok when I arrived at the airport well after Boris’s arrival. (Can you believe I was late?)  I ran right into him and his wife as if it was planned.

I am not going to say the week was all smooth sailing, Boris and I both have strong personalities and some inevitable head butting occurred. I took Boris to Lower Snoqualmie Falls, one of my favorite places to shoot for our first photo adventure. I am used to shooting with other toy photographers and we generally leave each other alone and work independently. I was caught off guard when he wanted to know my plan at my first chosen location. I ungraciuosly shooed him on his way and we both got to work.

The next day we loaded all the photographs into the gallery, did some touristy activities around Pioneer Square, had lunch and did a little toy shopping. (We both bought toys that were not LEGO and played with them all week so look for those in our IG feeds.) Soon it was time to pick up Vesa at the airport.

Vesa was an even bigger mystery to me than Boris. Why had he said yes to all this craziness? Why did he eventually agree to come to Seattle in person? (Yes there were some strong arm tactics involved.) Was this a “one off” event or would we have a future together as StuckinPlastic? I had one week to get the answers to my questions.

While Boris and I played on our phones waiting for Vesa’s arrival (this time I was not late!) Wivika, Boris’s wife, was worried we would miss him. Boris and I, on the other hand, were pretty sure we would have no problem spotting Vesa when he appeared on the escalator, and we were right. After hugs were exchanged all around, we headed to the car and our adventure began in ernest.

We had some great days of sightseeing both in and outside the city. Many photos were taken of toys, each other and the scenery. Conversations were had and connections were made. Many great meals were enjoyed, many glasses of wine and beer were drunk, and I shared my home, my city and my friends with Boris and Vesa.

To hear Boris say: “It is a beautiful city” when watching the sunset from Kerry Park or hear Vesa say: “I didn’t think you could have so much fun in a foreign country,”(*) made me realize that my goal for the week had been accomplished.

We each took a leap of faith to make this photography show happen but I am pretty sure I speak for all of us when I say it was well worth the risk. And as Boris is fond of telling me: the adventure is only just beginning.

~ xxSJC

(*) I should give some context to this comment made by Vesa.  It was made after an exceptionally wonderful day of shooting toys, followed by dinner with toy photo friends, then meeting up with my rocktographer friends for drinks at our local hang out. When you travel to a country that is not your home, it is always an unexpected pleasure to be welcomed into the group like family. Besides we had a hella’ good time that day and the comment was warranted. 

All three of us here at StuckinPlastic have much to say about the past week but it is going to take time to share everything that transpired as we each deal with the consequences of taking a week or more out of our normal lives. Please stay tuned!

If you have any specific questions regarding the show, our impressions of the experience or how we made this happen…please let us know and we will try to answer them. 

The photo above is my favorite picture of my new friends, it is the one I will always remember this trip by. 

TheGeekParent

I just wanted to give everyone a heads up that I will be doing a quick  phone interview with TheGeekParent on Thursday, March 5th at 7pm EST (3am London).

I will be talking about my process, history, inspiration and the road that has lead us all to be exhibiting at the Bryan Ohno Gallery. Here is a link that will take you directly to the site if you care to listen in.

This has been a heady week of meeting old / new friends, as well as a lot of hard work from all three of us, coming together all at once. I have been more than a little overwhelmed. I am grateful that ME2 has been able to keep his head in the game and keep everyone up to date on our activities.

I promise when the week is over I will have much to say on the whole process. In the mean time I am going to keep my feet on the ground and enjoy the moment.

So come listen to the interview on Thursday (or check out their archives if you miss it) because in my mind I will be speaking to you, our amazing friends and supporters.

~ xxSJC

 

Toys are not Meant to Sit Still in Your Basement

“I will fly to the moon and back..”

When I started collecting Lego minifigures two years ago, photographing them was not on my mind. I was an enthusiast who was more than happy to see these tiny plastic people smile at me just as they did when I was a kid. Photographing them on my smartphone came about a year later. Since then I have become “telefonfotografcisi” on Instagram, shooting Lego photos and sharing them with a number of total strangers and a few close friends.

After sharing the first photo I took on my balcony (for the record it was the gnome fig on a beer can) I received about 30+  likes, most of which came from people I did not know. Even-though I am not motivated by followers or likes, I liked this feeling. I was motivated to do more and preferably even better photos. It means even more when strangers like my photos (sorry friend!). I know I can count on my friends to eventually “like” some –if not all- of my photos since they are happy to support my endeavors. Strangers though, only like a photo when they sincerely do so. They love the work, the idea, or the artistic effects you applied; nothing more. That seems to be enough for many of them to double-tap your photo or hit that magic button to follow for more.

And this has been my greatest joy in coming out, speaking up and sharing my creations with others on Instagram.

Because creative work needs to be shared… eventually.

Now that dear Shelly, Boris and Vesa are just a few days away from “In LEGO We Connect” art exhibition opening on March 5th in Seattle, I have come to think on this more and more. As one of their many fellow fans, I am excited and looking forward to hearing about the show and sharing in any good news. I am sure all their hard-work and years of experience on mastering their art will more than pay off on this day.

Even more important -for all of us- is, these three people, who were total strangers to me and to each other just a short time ago are now leading a stage-act to inspire so many of us.

These three photographers have come out, spoken up and shared their creative worlds with us. And on the 5th of March they will share it with more, share it bigger, share it bolder.

Even though I am unable to be there and support them in person, I will do my best to make them feel assured they have our blessings.

Shelly, Boris and Vesa have illuminated up a path for us to share our imaginations. Now it’s our turn to walk that path and bring our toys out of the basement.

Because creative work just can’t sit still.

It needs to be shared…eventually.

Good luck, my friends!

~ Serhat

Seattle

I’m sure it is no real surprise that neither Me2 nor Avanaut have visited Seattle or the Pacific Northwest.  Seattle has always had a reputation as being beautiful, but a little out of the way. So I thought I should let them know a little bit about my city and start planning what we can do in our free time before they get here.

Seattle is home to a few large corporations you might have heard of: Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon and Costco. The worlds richest man lives just across Lake Washington: Bill Gates. We are the fastest growing city in the United States with the 4th worst traffic. We play more live music here than anywhere else in the country other than New York. We are the most literate city in the country. We recycle everything! (I hope Vesa and Boris are prepared to sort their garbage everywhere they go.)

I have been thinking hard about places to take my fellow photographers that might afford a glimpse into what makes Seattle unique as well as provide a few photo opportunities because first and foremost, we are photographers. Here is my list so far:

This is my short list of places to visit and explore in and around Seattle. We will also see Pioneer Square (the original heart of Seattle), Bertha (the tunnel boring machine stuck under Seattle for over a year) and take a walk along Seattle’s waterfront.

Is their anyplace you think I should take Boris and Vesa? If you have been to Seattle, what is your favorite thing to do here? Leave a few suggestions below and help me make this a visually memorable trip.

Because all work and no play will make us all very dull indeed.

~ xxSJC

Seattle Dream Pt. II from F-Stop Seattle on Vimeo.

Do the Work

“Standing on the Edge of Everything” by xxSJC

Do the work; this is my daily mantra and it has been extremely effective at keeping my emotions in check and the panic level manageable as hanging the show and the opening reception are looming just around the corner.

No matter what happens next week, or even next month, I feel I have done the work and I have been true to myself. Whether this is enough to win me a broader audience, to launch my work to the next level or to open up unforeseen opportunities, I have no idea. But I would rather know than not know.

To find some inspiration and solace in these stress filled days, I turned to the classic book on the creative process Art & Fear and found this passage:

“In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice (or more accurately a rolling tangle of choices) between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot – and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy. It becomes a choice between certainty and uncertainty. And curiously, uncertainty is the comforting choice.”

I have lived with uncertainty for too long. I want to live on the edge of everything and experience life to its absolute fullest, even if I fall flat on my face.

So here is to being an artist, for going the extra mile, to putting yourself out there until it hurts; for doing the work. Because in the end when you are standing next to your image hanging on the wall, that is all that matter.

~ xxsjc

I wrote a piece earlier on being true to yourself. I have been thinking a lot about that right now as the inevitable comparisons will be made when all our work is hanging side by side. But I feel good about my work only because I know I have been true to my own path, no compromises where made on this particular journey. 

I do apologize the blog has been so “I” centric of late. Hopefully we will get back on track with other topics and other conversations after next week.