I know I have mentioned this several times, but inspiration sometimes comes from the weirdest places. Recently I watched the movie “Frank” which tells the story of one aspiring band who is fronted by a man who never removes his papier-mâché head. Just the place to find treasures like:
[clickToTweet tweet=”When you think you’ve gone far enough, go farther.” quote=”When you think you’ve gone far enough, go farther.”]
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.
The hardest thing about keeping going with any project, be it toy photography or landscape photography is the concept of challenging yourself. Instagram is filled with people who take essentially the same photo over and over again.
I know I can be accused of this as much as the next person.
So I want to take a moment to talk about someone who seems to be challenging himself on a daily basis: +east mountain. Even though he is nearing the end of his 365 daily photo challenge he continues reinventing his photography style. Sure you can attribute some of this to his desire to master the basic concepts of photography since he is relatively new to the hobby, but most people do not take it to this level.
If you look back through his photos he has played with different lenses, natural elements like fire, water and sand, as well as experimenting with a variety of lighting styles. Just thinking about the amount of effort that goes into these shoots is a bit mind blowing, but at the same time I am inspired to push myself in a similar way.
Ok maybe I’m not going to start melting my mini figures, but I know I am capable of accomplishing more than what I am doing.
It is easy to look to the likes of Avanaut for inspiration but don’t stop there. There is as much to be learned from the new kids like East-Mountain, as from the masters.
Who inspires you? How do you keep your work looking fresh? Do you have any inspirational tricks you can share with the community?
As we await +Me2 and his/our grand adventure to begin I thought I would introduce you to another great storyteller: Bricksailboat.
BrickSailboat has always been one of my favorite feeds on Instagram. What is there not to like about free wheeling ninjas, a crew of regular mini figs and classic pirates all struggling for control of a full size sailboat?
The mastermind of this silly and beautifully photographed feed is Paul S. Mr S loves a good story. The characters who populate his feed are often engaged in an elaborate story lines involving adventure, epic quests and mysterious strangers. Even when the ninjas are simply training on the boat I have the feeling they are bidding their time until the next adventure begins.
Now that Mr S. is on his own epic cross country trek, relocating to another coast line, the entire crew of the sailboat has gone on equally large quests. As we are treated to photos of ninjas’ trekking across sand dunes I realize that Mr S planned his entire road trip around finding these stunning locations just to feed the story line. That is some dedication!
If you find yourself treading water with your photography, creating a specific story line is a great way to move forward. If you are handy with words write an original adventure, if not try recreating a favorite literary passage. You might just find yourself creating some beautiful photographs along the way.
Who are your favorite storytellers on Instagram? Have you tried your hand at creating a unified story and telling it using Lego?
Have you noticed how much toy / childhood imagery there is in the art world lately? Maybe I’m just fine tuned to this genre due to my involvement in the Instagram toy photography community. I noticed that at the art show I was recently attending there were more than a few artists working with toy / childhood imagery in a variety of mediums.
For example there was the titillating photography using HO scale figures called bodyscapes, the crazy 3-D toy collages by David Burton (seriously check this guys work out) and more HO scale photography by Audrey Heller. But my favorite by far was Joachim Knill’s paintings of imaginary stuffed animals.
I first met Joachim many years ago when we both created photography to sell at arts & craft shows. His work has alway been compeling and nicely off kilter. His latest series of paintings is titled “National Treasure”. The idea behind National Treasure is that these paintings are artifacts from another world inhabited by stuffed animals. Just imagine a formal gallery that has been dropped in the middle of your street and these portraits of stuffed animals in gilt frames are there to be “shared, viewed and consumed, ” and you might begin to understand the concept.
These renaissance styled paintings are slightly disturbing yet endlessly intriguing. They are beautiful haunting images that take me back to my childhood and my own well worn stuffed animals.
Talking with Joachim and hearing him refer to his paintings as cultural artifacts was fascinating and certainly rang a familiar bell in my head. I think that whenever you are dealing with mass produced consumer goods in your art work that some aspect of the cultural artifact will naturally occur. It only remains to be seen how you interpret and reflect back your own culture using these ubiquitous objects. Will you become a social commentator, a mirror into the past or create a path into a parallel universe? The possibilities are endless.
I encourage you to look around and see what other artists are creating. It feels like there is a brave new world of toy art upon us.
Did you take the time to listen to the TED talk suggested by +Me2 yesterday? I did and I was mildly amused by Sting and his talk. Maybe I was not as taken by it as Me2, but that can be explained by the fact I was also working.
I think it is important to realize that every artist struggles with the artistic process. No matter if you are a multi platinum musician who makes enough off his royalties to live in a chateau and grow his own grapes or the beginning photographer. The creative issues are the same if not the income stream.
So, yes we are all in similar (I will never say: “the same”) boats. The goal is to make relevant art that speaks to who ever might view, listen or read our creative works. There is no magic formula to success, I wish there was. But I do know that if you speak from the heart and are true to your own voice you will make a connection with your audience.
I think it was interesting that Sting had to go back to his roots, the ones he had been denying, to find the motivation and his voice again. Sometimes you have to go to the dark places, the places you want to avoid to do the work that needs to be done. I think the trick is to take your viewers on your journey with you, but still allow them to find themselves in what you are saying. To be personal, but still universal.
By creating honest work we will find ourselves a little closer to the answers and hopefully maintain our inspiration.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I leave you with a song by one of the bands that has inspired me the most: Cloud Cult. They managed to take a personal tragedy and create some of the most beautiful music while working through the pain. Craig Minowa is a testament to the “Art Saves Lives” motto. Remember: no one ever said this would be easy.
Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information. – Man Ray
I could spend my time explaining photography technique, talking camera gear or trading tips on editing apps…but I think a more interesting question is why do we (all of us toy photographers) take photographs of Lego mini figures. I did not grow up with the toy, it is not a part of my history, it is not a big part of my cultural heritage. In fact I am probably one of the most inept brick builders on the planet. Think Emmet at the beginning of the Lego movie. My greatest skill I bring to my family’s Lego obsession (their’s not mine) is my impeccable sorting skills. So what is so attractive about these little plastic friends? Is it our ability to project our own thoughts and dreams on the many different characters created? Is it a need to revisit our child hood and rediscover the joy of play? Is it sheer boredom? Is it a release from the stresses and pressures of life? Is it simply proximity and easy access? What is your inspiration? What keeps you motivated and moving forward photographically? Once you know this, life will not be able to side track you, no matter how hard it tries. ~ xxsjc
We are all influenced in our work, whether we are aware of it or not.
Last fall I had to write an artists statement about my work that included its origins and influences. I named the usually suspects like Sally Man and Jock Sturges because I am first and foremost a figure photographer. These two photographers have been very influential in my work over the years, but I needed to bring my figurative work around to toy photography. As I wracked my brain one image came to mind immediately.
Untitled (falling buffalo) 1988-89 by David Wojnarowicz
I remembered when I first saw this image in Aperture Magazine and it’s always stuck with me. I think it may be the original seed planted way back in the dark ages of my youth that has blossomed into my current plastic passion. When I revisited this image I was startled to find out it was not a toy photograph at all. I had originally misinterpreted (or conveniently forgot) its origins. This was an image taken by David Wojnarowicz of a museum diorama in the late 1980’s. (For an excellent analysis of this deceptively simple photography go here.)
The humanity, agony and tragedy captured in this one off image quickly taken in a museum with a film camera with poor lighting before a guard stopped him is a very powerful image to me. It’s one I turn too over and over again in the hopes that I too can create an image as powerful and simple as this one that will stand the test of time.
So the question I ask you to consider is this: who inspires you? Who are your influences? What are the images that you have seen (in any relevant medium) that inspire you to do your best work?
If you care to share please leave a comment. I would love to know what stokes your creative fire.