“To speak out once for all, man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is man, and he is only completely man when he plays.” (Friedrich Schiller, Letters Upon The Aesthetic Education of Man)
Last year my pictures had to be radically abstract. This year they are all about miniature people. What happened? And am I being inconsistent in my photography?
It’s about pictures
I have always tried to be very clear about one thing: My photography is not ‘about’ the things I photograph – in fact, I could not care less in many instances. It is ‘about’ pictures because I like pictures. This notion is also supposed to help me escape a certain kind criticism: It has been said that photography is the death mask of reality and that it is not able to surpass the reality it depicts. I wanted to go beyond that. I aimed at pictures that are independent of the time and place they show. Continue reading Think big, shoot small?
Where to next? What does life after Instagram look like now that the platform is becoming so hated? What began as a simple, chronologically arranged photo sharing app is now virtually unrecognisable, and people aren’t happy. These days a Facebook algorithm governs the feed, the polaroid inspired square format is no longer binding, and Snapchat’s influence is obvious, to say the least. These moves away from the app’s roots are, unsurprisingly, hardly universally popular among Instagram’s 700-million strong userbase. People hate change, toy photographers not excepted. Recently, as first the algorithm, then stories, then the infamous ‘shadow-ban’ rolled out across Instagram, I’ve seen many posts proclaiming:
“Instagram is going down the drain! I’m moving to Eyeem!”
When Shelly asked me to write about my first toy photo, I had no idea what I could possibly tell about it. Last year, I posted online what I consider to be my first photo as a toy photographer. It was just a photo of a big pile of minifigs. I wanted to see how they look in front of my camera and it was never meant to be shared with anybody.
The only story behind that photo is about how I got into toy photography. I decided to start learning about photography when I was in need of a new hobby and got my first DSLR in early 2014. At that time I didn’t know what kind of photographer I wanted to be or what kind of photos I wanted to take. But at some point I stumbled onto dozens of inspiring LEGO photographers. It was impossible to resist going into the attic and looking for my old LEGO collection. Photography was the perfect excuse to play again with toys, something I’ve secretly wished to do since I started to get “too old”.
Within two months I tried taking photos with the specific idea of sharing them online. Among those early photo still dear to me is my first photo series. It mixes some of my first acquired modern minifigures with my favorite “classic” ones. I knew the technical quality wasn’t great and that I had to practice in order to progress. But there was also more…
At that time, I was looking to develop my own style of photography. I wanted my photos to be recognizable without people having to look at the name next to it. The people that inspired me most all have their own distinct style and I wanted to be like them. After all it’s natural to want to be like your heroes isn’t it?
But did I achieve that goal? Or will I ever achieve it? I don’t know and I’ve stopped caring. I’ve discovered that this not the goal I should be aiming for. The real goal is to be aware of my vision and know how I want to express it through my photography.
Part of this evolution can be credited to discovering Stuck in Plastic at a time when my toy photography wasn’t making much progress. I’m grateful for this discovery for several reasons. One of them is that it allowed me to read Shelly’s blog posts and it made me think in a different way about photography. I couldn’t thank her and Kristina enough for their challenges from the Photographer’s Playbook. I forced myself to participate, no matter how hard it could be and how long it would take. Taking on these challenges made me think deeply about what I was doing and why.
And then I found the missing piece. I watched an interview on Youtube by Canadian photographer David DuChemin about the importance of vision. Although reading regular blog posts from different toy photographers should have rung that bell earlier (like when Shelly and Kristina were talking about red thread). By watching this specific interview, I realized what really matters: to produce better pictures I needed to be aware of my artistic vision.
Looking back at those early photos, it seems like I have traveled a long way. Now the photos I take and share are there to express something inside me. I still take occasional photos just “for the fun”. In the end they’re not the important ones to me, no matter how much others like them.
I wonder if my vision was already a noticeable part of my early photos? I think this might be the case with the first photos I took of toys while traveling abroad. Going back to those “oldies” made me realize that maybe I’m a travel toy photographer. No matter if my photos are taken while traveling or not.
Quite a few months ago a friend asked if I’d ever shoot Lego. I said ‘probably not’ and went on to explain that something so recognizable in an image makes it all about that item, whether for or against, you can’t have just a message all on its own.
I virtually met Shelly on the Internet approximately one year ago and soon discovered her toy photographers’ meet-ups. I’ve definitely wanted to go to one; unfortunately the dates and locations didn’t work for me.
So, I started thinking about how I could organize my own. Well, organize is a big word. My lack of experience unequivocally didn’t help me at all, but the wish to take part in one was too strong to resist.
My original idea was to gather people together at my LUG’s annual LEGO exhibition. Every year Cremona Bricks hosts a big meet up. This year it was the sixth edition of it, with more than 80 exhibitors from all over Northern Italy. If you’re curious about the event you can have a look at this gallery on Flickr. Initially this seemed like the biggest mistake ever! Since we’re all LEGO fans too, we spent a lot of time looking at dioramas and the MOCs. We also spent time buying custom accessories in the market area. Continue reading Toy Photographer’s Meet-Up – Italian Style!
I’m pretty strictly a studio photographer. I like having full control of the entire set and lighting. But there were a few pictures on my ‘to do ‘ list that just seemed to be begging to be shot outdoors.
My sister came into town to visit and needed some beach shots for her blog. That was the final ingredient I needed for an inevitable outdoor shoot. So, armed with her shoes, and my toys, off to the beach we went.
Why do I do toy photography…….. I do it as a release of creative juices, a release of anguish, and a release for my own personal pleasure. Hmmm… maybe I should reword that…. nah.
My life is not everything I wanted it to be. My early life was wrought with some disturbing events that still haunt me and my current life is a grind to say the least. I’m not meaning to complain, many people have it far, far, far worse. I’ve often felt that all my opportunities have passed me by; traded in for security and a steady income to support my family. There are worse things in life, I know. I work lots of hours and make decent money, which tends to happen if you work lots of hours at one place… So it is what it is and while my focus is mostly on providing for my family, I need something for me. Continue reading Why by DoctorNvmore
Recently, I have read on someone’s Instagram post that they don’t like the “cheap route of posting daily the same iPhone photos of the shark suit minifigs or minimalist shots of Stormtroopers.” They prefer to “focus attention on creating well-crafted models and shooting artistically – styled vignettes.” Basically they were calling for quality over quantity. Continue reading Quality over quantity?
The first LEGO I remember playing with was a dusty shoebox full of hand-me-down bricks that were colored either white or red. There was nothing as fancy as a hinge or even a plate in the mix. It was just classic 2 x 2 and 2 x 4 bricks, along with a few scattered 2 x 10 pieces that seemed massive by comparison. These LEGO bricks really were just bricks in the most humble sense of the word. I stirred the white and red pieces with my hand, creating the churning storm-like sound of plastic against plastic for the first time.Continue reading Why LEGO Photography?