My name is Yuri. I’m a 31 y.o. sales manager from Moscow, Russia. I’ve been in love with LEGO since my childhood, but only started shooting it in February 2016 when found some great pics on Instagram. Those pics really inspired me and I decided to try it just for fun… and that fun still doesn’t let me go and it’s became my hobby. I think toy photography is not such a popular hobby in Russia. I’ve met some Russian enthusiasts while discovering this awesome hobby, but there are really only a few here.
Not one of my friends and colleagues had heard about toy photography before I told about them about it. But it’s really great that I can tell and show people something unusual. Many of them appear interested and I like it!
– I’m shooting LEGO.
– Great! Wait. You shooting… what?
What I do
My own passion in toy photography is natural looking scenes, with characters looking like not just like toys, but like living people with their own feelings and thoughts. When I see the scene and it doesn’t need additional text to tell the story, I think that’s true art, and a direction I want to follow in my work.
I never do instant pics. One of my friends on Instagram said “Shoot now, ask later!” That’s not my way. Usually I come up with an idea few days before shooting. It may be recreated a story from real life, or my own fantasy, but it always needs to be created with love to process. I don’t stick to one series or one character, but I try to make my own recognizable style.
The main direction in my work today is all about action and flying particles, and there are still a lot of things I must learn. This very meditative and creative process requires a lot of patience and accuracy. And I really love it. The next step would be practicing with natural human poses and cinematic angles.
When I can’t find good place to shoot my idea, I can just create that place myself. And then I’ll take my camera to take a few shots and share my own story. Every step, every moment of this process, is all about creating. And creating makes me happy.
So what’s the point for me?
LEGO photography (as a part of toy photography) is a universal language that I can use to communicate with people worldwide without any borders. It’s the way of self-expression. I want my photos to bring you into their stories; that’s a purpose of all my work.
Today we have so many things that divide the world, and I’m really happy to be a part of this amazing community that unites all of us.
I want to thank Brett for his invitation to introduce my work and myself. It’s a really big honor for me!
Writing was the earliest form of storytelling I remember doing. I would actually write stories to then play them out with my action figures. I was 25 when I first started…just kidding, I was 9.
Writing comes naturally not easily. It’s therapy. I can get something off my chest or out of my mind. Or it can just be something I think is entertaining. When write a more meaningful piece, I’m writing it for myself and people like me going through something similar. Storytelling, on both sides, can be a safe place to explore or confront your feelings.
I know there are others that have it worse than me, but I only have my experience to draw from. Honestly I wish writing about adversity wasn’t my thing. My mom used to write feel good love stories, but then again we all have different stories to tell.
Right now I’m an unhappy person. I carry that unhappiness with me with a little bit of guilt. I feel guilty because there are things I’m also grateful for. But when I’m being honest with myself, I know I’m not living the life I want. I’m still trying to figure things out. Storytelling is the only thing in my life I haven’t given up on. Whether it’s through writing, photography, improv, filmmaking, or whatever, I’ve always found a way make my voice heard. It’s a mechanism to combat loneliness and it’s proven to be effective. My hope is that when someone reads a story of mine, that it will resinates on some level for them. If not to make someone feel better, it’s to say you’re not alone.
I’ve heard it more than once. People want to ask “Why?” but apparently deciding it’d be rude, they just flop the unspoken question out there disguised as disbelief.
I’d had a camera since high school [Yes, they made them back then!], dabbling in everything from nature to concert work. But I’d drifted away from it, rarely dragging the old 35mm out. Then came digital and suddenly my phone had a camera! Then I acquired a tiny point & shoot and the requisite Flickr account to document some non-scan-able artwork.
It was while poking about on Flickr that I stumbled upon toy photography: 4″ Stormtroopers eating a spaghetti dinner! Ugly Dolls fighting over each other’s belongings! Tiny N-scale railroad figure; I dabbled in that pool too. People using photos to breathe life into bits of plastic! Not only did these early finds make me laugh, they inspired me to try it.
When I got back into photography much more heavily around 2009-ish, with the purchase of a DSLR, I [somehow] found myself shooting predominantly nature and wildlife – birds, for some reason, to the degree that a friend christened me “The Bird Whisperer.” Toys fell by the wayside while I shot much more “serious” stuff. Meanwhile, LEGO came out with the CMF series, and I collected the ones I liked. At times, I excused their purchase by saying “Oh, I plan to photograph these…” but it was very occasional, at best.
Fast forward a bit further to a few years ago, when the residual damage from an accident started to catch up with me. Instead of spending nearly every waking hour of every weekend out in the woods, up in the mountains, trooping through rain and snow, camera in hand, I was… home. I was exhausted, in pain, medicated, and frankly, depressed. Sometimes I’d get out for an hour or two, but not like I had been. My creative outlet was out there and I wasn’t. And I wasn’t handling it very well.
One miserable, cold, snowy day I discovered a fistful of Minifigures on the counter, next to my phone. I started pushing the figs about, noting how it looked like they were talking to and interacting with one another… and I snapped a photo. Then I remembered other figs I had, and that box of accessories I’d had for my old crew of misfit Stormtroopers. And I just kept going, regaining a creative outlet by photographing them as I did so.
Before long, there was always at least one fig in my work bag, in case an opportunity came up. When I was able to start spending more time out shooting, toys started riding along in my camera bag, as well.
And while, initially, I sort of hid my toy photography from most people, only showing the “serious” stuff… that has changed too, especially over the last year or so. Finding the Toy Photographers community has played a role in that. Seeing so much boundless creativity presented by such talented photographers inspires me on a daily basis. Not only can toy photography be technically serious, there’s no good reason to be shy about it.
And really, when you go out to dinner with friends, and they are all Instagramming their dinner but you have to set up a tiny sushi chef in the middle of yours first, you’d better get over the shyness factor, and learn to laugh at yourself – while still getting the shot!
And when they ask “Toys? Seriously?” I respond “Very.”
Because toy photography has become something I enjoy. It’s something I’m passionate about.
Ryan is currently one of our fabulous moderators in our G+ Community. Come hang out with him and all the wonderful people who make this corner of the internet special. You can follow Ryan on either G+ or Instagram
As well as supporting the regular themes, 2017 has been a big year for LEGO tying in with cinematic releases, with both inhouse and external IP. By the end of the year, we will have seen a new Star Wars movie, Wonder Woman and Justice League movies, The LEGO Batman Movie and LEGO Ninjago Movie released.
This post was provoked, in part after reading a comment about the relatively low female representation in the Collectable Minifigure sets recently released. I thought it would be interesting to revisit the question of gender distribution in some popular LEGO themes, and see if there were any significant shifts in trends over the last 12 months, when I last reviewed the numbers. The impending release of the Ideas set ‘Women of NASA’ is also of interest, as it certainly demonstrates a desire to see inspirational female role models immortalized in LEGO form.
I would like to look specifically at LEGO City, overall, as well as broken down into its major sub themes; The LEGO Batman Movie; The LEGO Ninjago Movie, and also LEGO Friends. I would also like to look at LEGO Star Wars sets released since the Force Awakens…
LEGO City: A Progressive Town?
When we last looked at LEGO city, there were some encouraging trends: almost 30% (41/144), with the ‘City Adventure subtheme’ – Volcano Explorers – featuring 10/27 mini figures with feminine characteristics. This is compared with around 10% in 2011 But what have we seen in 2017? Have we seen LEGO City approach parity, or is it still subject to a significant gender gap?
We have seen a number of sub themes this year including: Police, Transport, Coast guard/ beach life and Jungle. Some people also like to include their Creator Expert sets with their City (Modular buildings, fairground, winter village).
Creator Expert – City scale models: In the three sets mentioned there are 20 mini figures (plus one baby). Ten are female, so we have a great start for gender parity right here.
Looking in the LEGO City Police sets, 13 out 43 were demonstrating feminine characteristics, six were not clearly determined, and 24 displayed masculine characteristics. But wait, that’s just a little gender binary of you Rambling Brick… I suppose it is. I am judging these characteristics as: feminine: lipstick, maybe eyelashes, maybe a ‘figure curve shadow’ on the minifigure torso print. Figures with masculine characteristic typically demonstrate some form of facial hair.
Where I have described faces as non specific, there is no clear lipstick or facial hair on the print. These figures make it easy for the child playing with the LEGO sets under consideration to determine the gender of the figure for themselves. You are welcome to disagree with my methods.
Like ‘Fun In the Park’ last year, 60153 Fun at the Beach has a pretty evenly balanced gender mix portrayed in the included figures. If we pool the transport, beach, coastguard, ands random racing car sets (NOT Speed Champions), we have a total of fifty five mini figures, with twenty four appearing to show feminine characteristics – I felt that eight of these figures did not have a clearly specific gender: 24/55 = 43%.
Welcome to the Jungle
In this year’s Jungle sub theme, we have a mixture of adventurers and scientists trekking through the world’s jungles, seeking hidden treasures, wildlife and the occasional carnivorous plant. We have a total of twenty six figures, across seven sets. Eleven of these figures have feminine characteristics. 11/26 = 42% figures with feminine traits.
Let’s look across the entire city theme: this brings us to 49/124 figures available in sets and polybags appearing female. This brings us to 39.51%. If we include the minifigures included in this year’s Creator Expert sets (10/20 figures), the percentage edges up to 40.9%
Another story worth looking at is by looking at the number of minifigures currently available in the LEGO online store – which will include figures from older sets. So… looking at LEGO City sets available at shop.lego.com/en-AU/ on 18th October 2017, there were a total of 252 minifigures across City and Creator Expert ranges. Ninety six of these show feminine characteristics. A total of 38%. This is remarkable progress over the last few years. As time progresses, it may get closer and closer to 50%. It is interesting to note that the figures present in the Creator Expert displaying feminine traits has been around 40-50% for some time.
LEGO City is one of the company’s flagship ‘Evergreen’ themes. It is aimed particularly at a younger age group than some of the more fantastical themes such as Star Wars, Elves and Ninjago, set in a world where children develop their understanding of how the world works. The way that the gender balance has shifted over the last few years demonstrates a significant improvement over the 10% in 2011.
The LEGO Batman Movie
The LEGO Batman Movie was released earlier in the year and there is no doubt that there were some great sets, and a vast array of C-Grade villains, between the regular sets, and the collectable minifigures.
One of the drawbacks of The LEGO Batman Movie sets is the presence of LEGO Batman in almost every set. So, lets look at these sets in several ways: Unadjusted gender ratios (including collectible minifigures) and then by characters ( 23 Batman figures/costumes = one character. But Bruce Wayne is a second.). I will take this analysis to include the second wave of figures, and the imminent release of Joker Manor.
Overall, there are 98 figures released across the sets(including the bigfigs: Bane and Killer Croc, plus a further 20 CMFs, and 3 in LEGO Dimensions). There are only 3 different Batman figures (variant head pieces anyway) as well as 2 Batgirl figures. Across these sets, there are 24 figures with feminine traits, and six out of 20 CMFs. Thirty out of one hundred and fifteen (30/115= 26%)
So, lets discount the range of ludicrous BatCostumes/Joker Costumes/ Harley Quinn Costumes and Dick Grayson Tuxedos, and count only the characters released, we have 15 female characters out fifty five – 27.3% This does not seem to make a significant change to the overall ratio here, which suggests that this may have been chosen to maintain the gender balance along these lines. I will apply the character based calculation in LEGO Friends and LEGO Ninjago movie shortly as well, because in those ranges we have also multiple characters appearing multiple times across the range.
So in TLBM, we have more than a quarter, but less than thirty percent of minifigures or characters released to date having female characteristics. This is pretty close to last year’s LEGO City average.
Catching up with our Friends
Over in Heartlake City, gender bias tends to be in the other direction, with females outnumbering males significantly. We have come some way however, from the first wave of sets when only one minidoll included in that wave was male. This year, five out of 42 minidolls in new sets are male. However, many characters (especially the Andrea, Mia, Emma, Stephanie and Olivia) appear in multiple sets. Let us consider the characters released this year: we find that five out of fourteen characters released as Friends minidolls are male.
Again, however, if we look at the sets currently available on shop.lego.com, there are 12 male minidolls across the friends range (12/61= 19.6%). Looking at named characters in 2017, 10/26=38.5% of characters in Heartlake City are male. To calculate this, we only count one of each the principal characters. Alternatively of the 41 Friends sets containing minidolls, 12 contain a male figure.
The ‘Serious’ DC Extended Universe
This year has been a big year for DC, with Wonder Woman hitting the screens in July, and Justice League due to be released in November. Female characters are not common in the DC cinematic universe, however it is good to see that there are at least two Wonder Woman minifigures released in DCU Tie-in sets this year.
Considering this year’s DC Cinematic releases, we see Wonder Woman Minifigures appear in three sets, plus another variant on the cover of a DK Book. It was disappointing that there were no further releases related to the Wonder woman film other than 76075 Wonder Woman Battle: there were so many strong characters on Themascyra. Across the 4 sets released that tie in with Wonder woman and Justice League, our amazing Amazon is the only character other than Batman to appear in more than one set. There are no other female characters represented this year, with the exception of the SDCC exclusive Vixen figure. This brings our ‘non LEGO Batman Movie DCU, non Mighty Micros’ Female minifigure count up to 3 out of 16 (18%). Not knowing yet whether there are other potentially strong female characters in the Justice League film, it is hard to know whether or not the source material is to be blamed at this stage.
However, if we consider the DC Comics universe, there are dozens of female characters waiting to make their official minifigure debut. In Gotham city alone we have Spoiler, Batwoman, Cassandra and Huntress, just to name a few. And how good would it be to have a Barbara Gordon as Oracle?
The LEGO Ninjago Movie
As a movie based on one of LEGO’s own intellectual properties, the first wave of sets portrays a significant number of city dwellers. This would suggest that we might expect close to parity in our gender count. However, our heroes (and Villain) appear multiple times, in both civilian and ninja clothing. And then there is the Shark army, with a remarkable amount of stubble on their chins. Or is there?
So, lets start off with the raw numbers. To date there have been 17 sets released, plus a series of 20 collectable mini figures. In the Collectable Minifigures range (71019), we have six female characters: Nya, Misako, Shark Army General #1, the GPL Tech, N-Pop Girl and also, hidden under all that awkward headgear, the Shark Army Angler. That is six out of twenty (6/20=30%).
Looking at the LEGO Ninjago movie sets, we see a total of 85 mini figures, including Kai’s Dojo Pod Set. Only thirteen of these figures have female traits. This is around 15% of the minifigures associated with the LEGO Ninjago movie sets being female.
Why does our data seem to be skewed, reducing the proportion of female representation, when it would appear that many of the LEGO Themes this year are increasing the ration of female:male figures? In part there are three manniquins/figureless sets of clothes so we can discount them from our denominator: 13/82 =15.8%. We also have multiple occurrences of our ninja force: and of the 14 members of the shark army seen in the sets, all are male. Let us add the two members from the CMF series: this brings is 1/16 shark army members are female, plus one of two generals depicted.
So: if we pool our populations by character, so that duplicate characters do not count: –
Shark Army/ Gardemon Two out of eleven characters (both in the CMF range) are female (19%)
Ninja Force (including Sensei Wu): Nya is the only one of the six characters in this group who is female – so one in six . Each character has multiple representations, with Kai appearing in seven figures, and Nya appearing four times. Zane has only three occurrences in the Movie related sets. Each figure appears in multiple versions of ‘Uniformed’ as well as in civilian clothing.
Non Shark Army, non Ninjas: These residents of Ninjago City make up twenty three characters released in the CMF and first wave of sets associated with the LEGO Ninjago Movie. For the sake of the sums, the GPL tech has been included in this list. Ten of them are women. (10/23=43%)
But were there opportunities wasted? I think it is disappointing that we did not have a figure of Iron Lady Dragon released in the first wave of sets, but she will appear twice in the next wave of sets. Are there other figures that could be represented? The bride from the movie trailer? Other Schoolmates of the Ninjas? Their high school teacher? I do think there were some further options available, and it would be good to see them appear in future waves of Ninjago Movie sets.
So 43% of the city residents are female; 12.5% of the Shark army are female and 16% of the Ninja Force.
Star Wars: In search of a New Hope…
The original trilogy has a paucity of strong female characters, beyond Princess Leia. We see Aunt Beru – rapidly killed off, Mon Mothma, leader of the rebellion and no one else is named. Three characters in three movies. At least Leia had a variety of outfits, which have been able to be developed over the years. Mon Mothma has appeared in only one set, and Beru has never appeared in minifigure form.
So, I performed a quick and dirty, back of the serviette, calculation of the number of Female Star Wars Minfigures released over the last twenty years. I referred to Bricklink’s Browse mini figures feature, selecting Star Wars as the Theme. With Sixty six out of nine hundred and eleven different figures (including droids and clones), that is barely 7%. In comparison, there are fifty variations on Luke Skywalker ALONE!
I thought it would be interesting to see if there had been a change in the representation of women since the release of the Force Awakens, so let us look at the number of female characters represented in LEGO Star Wars sets since 2014 ( the last year before the ‘Disney films’)
The release of The Force Awakens in 2015 should see things look up, after all Rey flies off in the Millennium Falcon doesn’t she? While Rey gets a figure, she is on her speeder, and not in the Falcon. Still, 7/81 female figures is all we have to show for the year that saw first season of Rebels and The Force Awakens. They do, however, put the original trilogy to shameas far as female representation is concern.
2016: Last year we saw the release of subsequent sets based on Rebels, Episodes 1-VII and episodeVII, as well as as the Star Wars Story Rogue One. Only Eleven Figures out of 115 are female. (9.56%)
2017: This year, eight out of seventy six mini figures to be found in Star Wars sets are depicting female characters.
Despite the strong leads: Leia, Jyn Erso and Mon Mothma and Rey in the movies currently being considered, the general availability of these figures is diappointing. Most only appear in one set. This is sad, as in part it suggests that there has been no movement on the from of gender ratios in the current film franchise, AND Lego are not taking all of the opportunities to produce fresh new characters for the Sets. And let us not forget that two of those appear in the $AU1300 Millennium Falcon – so, not easily accessible at this point! There does not appear to have been a specific tipping point in LEGO Star Wars, unlike City which has rapidly increased its female representation in recent years.
But, are things really so bleak in the Star Wars Minifigure Universe?
Why not exclude the ‘faceless’ masses of clone troopers, storm troopers, droids, unnamed non-humans from our calculations, perhaps we will see a higher ratio of female to male mini figures. This graph demonstrates how this has changed. It is important to recognise, however, that even though this calculation results in a ‘best score’ of 18% in 2012, and only 16 2/3% this year. However, there has been an increase in the number of ‘non central’ female characters appearing in the Star Wars mini figures, such as ground crew, and ranking officers. While there has been an increase in the absolute number of female minifigures released each year, compared with 2010, we have also seen a significantly greater number of Star Wars minifigures released each year.
So, in summary, LEGO City has made great leaps forward towards equal gender representation in recent years and continues to lead the way on the path to gender equality amongst minifigure representation. At almost 40% this year, it is still a significatnt improvement over last year.
Themes referencing intellectual properties, either in house such as Ninjago, or external such as Star Wars, DC Superheroes and LEGO Batman Movie, are limited somewhat by the source material. There does, however, seem to be a general trend to have increased diversity in ‘non principal’ characters.
LEGO Friends also has improved balance overall, with almost 30% of sets available containing at least one male minidoll, and over 35% of characters currently on the shelves are male.
Star Wars still has some room for improvement. There are still some pivotal characters yet to be seen in LEGO form, including Shmi Skywalker (Anakin’s mother), and Luke’s Aunt Beru.
I suspect that City will remain the benchmark for gender equality in the world of LEGO Minifigures. (For the record, Collectible mini figures are a bit below the current par, with 5/16 in the regular series this year, and 6/20 in the movie related series being female.)
I hope you have enjoyed this update on the depiction of gender characteristics in LEGO Minifigures, for 2017.
What do you think? Will it still take too long for your old minifigure collection to approach parity? Is it just a good start? Why not leave your comments below, subscribe for updates and share this post with your friends…
Just over 250 days ago, I wrote on this blog about my 365 toy photography project. At the time, I was on photo #39. As of writing, I just published photo #295!
Over the last 8 months, I’ve taken a lot of photos, many of which are consigned to the recycle bin. I’ve been to Sweden and played with Duplo, I overused breakfast items from the Ninjago minifigure series and I broke out ‘Pop’ figures and Playmobil for a change of pace.
I spoke about accidental themes in my photos last time, and about finding my style. I’ve been doing a little bit of both of those, with a prevalence of a certain winged skelly figure, and a lot of light play over the summer months. A summer style certainly developed, with lots of light, bright photos that really made me smile.
Too much of a good thing?
However, it’s all become a bit much.
Work has been really tough this year, and the (admittedly self-inflicted) requirement for a daily photo means that they have often been taken and thrown up onto Flickr and Instagram with little thought. I’ve been nowhere near as active on G+ as I wanted, and I’m missing the engagement that I felt during the early part of the year.
The whole experience of a year of toy photography has left me feeling slightly empty and I’ve had some serious ups and downs. I’ve photos I love, and photos I hate, but now I’m struggling to make myself take the photos at all. The joy is beginning to fade. It feels a little too much like work.
So what now?
I will make it through the year of toy photos (because I’m stubborn like that), but then I need to take a step back from daily photos (I’ll probably be aiming for weekly).
I want to start to think about the photos I take, to work on composition, lighting and meaning. I want to tell stories with my photos. I want to get more involved with the community and ultimately, I want to reconnect with my photography again.
By taking the aim off of daily photography, and allowing myself more time to contemplate what I am doing, I hope to improve and produce more photos that I am happy with, rather than a whole lot of photos I don’t particularly like.
Only 70 photos to go.
Have you felt lost when in the midst of a long project? Did you overcome it? How do you keep the fun in your projects? Answers on a postcard please (or you know, in the comments!)
The following article was originally published by The Rambling Brick on September 29, 2016. It has been reprinted by permission of Richard Jones and The Rambling Brick.
Living with DiverCITY: changing depictions of gender roles with LEGO minifigures in the post-Friends era.
When I was a boy, and we rode dinosaurs to school, life was a little more simple than it is today. When the first LEGO mini figures were introduced, they were people. Not really men or women, just people. Their faces all looked the same: depicting the now classic smiley face. The only attempts to define gender, in terms of appearance, came in the form of the hair piece they had on if they were not wearing a hat! In that first year there were four ‘female’ mini figures released: they had hair with pigtails. If they were wearing a hat, you could quite happily identify that knight, policeman or astronaut as male or female as you should choose.
Two of these ‘people with hair, defining their gender as female’ came as the only figure in their sets, along with vehicles: one an ambulance (606) and one a ‘Red Cross’ car(623). Another worked at the service station (376) and the final one came with a home (377). There was also a female passenger with a railway carriage. in 1979, the first classic ‘male’ minifigure hair appeared. In this first year, printed torsos were still a year or two away, and defining your minifigure’s identity came down to the sticker that you placed on the torso piece. Continue reading Living with DiverCITY
What’s in your hand right now? It’s probably your cellphone, right? Maybe you’re at home or maybe you’re at work or perhaps you’re in the restroom during a first date. Hey, no judgement here.
The point is your phone is most likely with you at all times. That means that if you bring a toy along with you then you have everything you need for toy photography.
It’s what I used when I started shooting my figures. My first images were a bit stiff, editing to me meant boosting the saturation and maybe using a filter, oh and I also shot in square because I thought that was just the way it was on Instagram. But I never felt limited to when and where I could shoot, I only felt limited by my knowledge, understanding and experience as a photographer. Over time I learned more about the editing process, I appreciated the posing of an action figure and how to frame them to show a compelling image. Continue reading Phonegraphy: All You Need In The Palm Of Your Hands”