Legojacker

The Poetry of the Streets

There is

a thrill to walking
the empty city
at dawn,
plastic hidden,
feeling the cold
biting your neck
racing the morning light
as it creeps over the tops
of the buildings.
There is a quiet
that follows
as you slip into
dirty laneways
dripping with
brightly coloured
street art,
and walls
plastered
in the scrawl
of invisible souls.
Choose a spot.
Choose a figure.
Shoot.
Repeat.
At first
you may not see
the poetry
of the streets
alive with toys,
but then it comes,
tiny drifting souls
echoing desperate
cries and laughter
among the everyday debris.
Solitary
back alley visits
shooting
unfeeling plastic
by the gram
to feel
a shared humanity
in a world
turning faceless
by the second.
~ Legojacker

Avanaut

“The First Attempt” by Avanaut

Why do I take photographs of Lego? That is a question that took me by surprise a couple of weeks ago. I realized I had never asked myself that question before. Finding the answer was not easy, and it took a brief conversation with my wife for me to see it.

I am photographing Lego because I am a never-was movie director making a living outside the movie industry. That’s what my wife said, and it pretty much sums it up. See, I always loved movies. Star Wars, obviously, was huge, but many others as well, classics and contemporary. As a kid I made some movies myself with my dad’s Super-8 film camera, but film was expensive and my dad did not allow me to hack the camera’s filmport to produce a widescreen format picture. My movies were not very good; a widescreen wouldn’t have improved them, but still. I would build miniature sets and models to shoot, but the miserable camera could not focus on anything, since it had no macro. I grew up watching great movies and reading all about them. As a teenager I subscribed to Starlog, Cinemagic, and Cinefantastique. Cinefex, Premiere and Empire came along a little later. I’m soaked with that stuff; it’s in my DNA. I sometimes dream in 2.39:1.

That was a long time ago.

When I stumbled into photographing Lego Star Wars in 2009, I quickly connected to those times when I dreamed of making movies. I soon incorporated into the photos many of the cinematic ideas I had toyed with in my youth: widescreen, smoke, aerial particles, snow, blizzards, tight closeups and stories — the short stories that I like to write to go with the photos. I think this through via cinema; even my “Leftovers & Alternatives” album in Flickr is allegoric to a DVD “deleted scenes” extra. Lego is a perfect medium for all this. It’s playful, and there’s so much to choose from. You can have a minifigure on a piece of a coloured paper and still make a strong photo with that; yet there’s everything from a coffee cup to the Death Star to add, if you like.

This soon became a sort of creativity outlet, a free turf to express ideas I could not use in my day job as an illustrator. I see my photographs as single-frame plays I can write, produce, direct and shoot, but with characters and concepts I grew up with. In a way, I’m exploring an unfulfilled career path, but with Lego and present day tools, like the DSLR camera. It’s old but it’s new. It’s perfect!

~ Vesa Lehtimäki

“Breaking in the Tauntaun (Revised & Rejected) by Avanaut
“Last Ship to Rendezvous Point” by Avanaut

 

How a Lego Photo is Born

My son and I were fooling around with lego the other day and looking through his Master Builder Academy books and I came across this mini build for a cool camera. Needless to say, I whipped one up pronto.  It immediately reminded me of Weegee, so I made him too. Now if you’re going to make a Speed Graphic camera and a figure who looks like Weegee out of Lego, then the next logical step is to set up murder scene.
…and that is how a lego photo is born.  
I’m sure this is going to lead somewhere interesting, I hope you will stick around to find out where.  
– xxsjc 

Winning the Lottery

I’m sure for most people winning the lottery conjures up images of piles of money but for a fan of Lego it means scoring a rare set at regular price.

A few weeks ago I tried to purchase set #21110 The Research Institute and set #21109 The Exo Suit and found out that they were either “Sold Out” or “temporarily out of stock” on the Lego web site. They were not to be found at either of my local Lego stores; in fact they were going for double and triple their original asking price on the secondary market.

Aggggghhhhhh

Well, who should come to my rescue but my daughter, Sierra. My daughter is amazing. While I have coped with the excess of Lego in my house by photographing it, she went and got a job at our local Lego Store. This has both it’s pluses and minuses, trust me.

First she found set #21110 at our local toy store Math ‘n Stuff. I love Math ‘n Stuff because they sell Lego, they have an amazing set-up at our local BrickCon and they often have older sets at regular price. The staff is always friendly and did I mention they are only two blocks away? Sierra happened to be in Math n’ Stuff last week to get a new puzzle and spied a case of #21110 behind the counter. One thing led to another and before I knew it I had purchased The Research Institute. It seemed there was hope after all!

Yesterday Sierra came to me and told me that her store was getting in a big Lego shipment and that the Exo Suit was listed on the manifest. The hunt was on! I wasn’t taking any chances on this one. We arrived at the store at opening but alas they had not had a chance to unpack the shipment. We decided not to hover and wandered around the mall. Before we knew it Sierra received a text from Sean, back at the store, that he had found the sets and they were waiting for us.

Woooooo hooooo

Seriously I felt like I had just won the lottery. I’m pretty sure buying Lego shouldn’t engender this kind of emotional response in an adult. But that is my reality.

~ xxsjc

How far have you gone to score that hard to find set?
What set did you miss that you still regret?

My apologies for not having an image that is more appropriate. But life is moving pretty fast right now. Hopefully I will be more on point in future posts. 

I’m Fiddling While Rome Burns

As I watch world events unfold in the media I continue to take and edit photographs of toys. This feels a little bit like playing the fiddle while Rome burns.

I have no answers to the many crises that face the world right now…all I know is that it all seems to be building at a rather quick pace. Yes, I do know that our world has always been fraught with a certain about of war and conflict – but right now there seems to be a heightened sense of impending doom. It feels as if we are poised at the edge of something ominous and dangerous.

Is it right to be spending energy taking toy photographs and trying to creating art that makes people smile? Am I turning a blind eye to the elevated levels of human misery on this planet because it is easier?

I have no answers to anything right now. I am not looking for justification to my behavior, but I do wonder if my time could be better spent on a worthier endeavor.

~ xxsjc

Since the toy community spans the globe, do you think about your internet friends who may be in living in danger? 
Does local or world events effect your work? 

Suspension of Disbelief

Reality vs the suspension of disbelief is a very strange phenomena in the Lego universe. It’s seemingly arbitrary rules continue to amaze me.

Yesterday I posted this photo and the talented +Gordon Webb commented “Great shot Shelly. The pink strat is upside down, unless the squid is a lefty, and plays like Hendrix. :)”

We are willing to accept a guitar playing squid and singing mermaids but not the guitar in a non standard position. The last time I looked, the definition of a guitar is a six or 12 string instrument, not three. What kind of instrument is this really? Does it matter? Is that kind of attention to detail necessary?

There is a trend within the Lego community for an AFOL (or TFOL) to create a signature figure that represents themselves. I myself have a fairly distinct red headed figure I have used for well over a year that is my Lego alter ego. (She even has her own Lego alter ego.) This figure looks nothing like me…nothing. I was talking to a woman the other day who I have know for a few months. She met me first through Instagram. She told me that on our first in person meeting she was very disappointed to find out I looked nothing like my mini figure; where was my pink hair!?!

People take great pride in recreating famous land marks, album covers, particular cars and just about anything else you can think of in the human world with their Lego. In fact many of Lego’s most iconic sets are based on something in the human world: The VW Bug, The Taj Mahal, The London Bridge, The  Lego UniMog …the list goes on and on.

But where is the fun in that? How come we can’t make cars that grow flowers or crazy houses that twist and turn, bridges that don’t conform to logic or create a mini figure that looks like who we want to be? Why can we suspend our disbelief about a talking squid and some mermaids but not with an upside down guitar? For all I know Squidward taught Jimmi Hendrix everything he knew about guitar playing. Because in MY Lego world anything is possible.

If you have a Lego mini figure representing you, does it look like you?
When you create with Lego do you work from photographs or from your imagination?

~ xxsjc

PS – I hope you will check out Gordon’s work on G+ or on Instagram. He creates wonderful, fabulous, unique mech’s – each a thing of beauty that has no basis in reality.

The Fallacy of Validation

“Validation is for parking” ~ from Steal Like an Artist

This made me laugh, because it’s so true! I often see people grousing that their posted photos aren’t getting enough likes or comments on Instagram. Another popular complaint is that their photos never get featured by any of the toy groups.  All I can think to say to this is that you shouldn’t look to Instagram, Flickr, Google, Tumblr or anything else for validation. Because you aren’t going to get it.

What people like or don’t like is a very fickly enterprise. It is based on their own tastes coupled with their own experiences and occasionally these will intersect with what you are creating. Think of it like a vin diagram with a very small sliver of overlap. Whether or not what you are creating is good enough, has nothing to do with it. Being good is only half of the equation.

Oh did I mention luck is the other half? It’s that weird intangible that separates those that get recognized and those that toil away in obscurity. Life is fickle and art is a temperamental task master. So don’t get frustrated, roll with it, and make some art. Trust me, you will feel better.

So get out your toys, have some fun, take some pictures and look for your validation inside yourself. If it makes YOU happy, then it is good enough.

Did you take any toy photography pictures this weekend like Me2 did?
When was the last time you got a parking ticket?

~ xxsjc

I’ve bored you all enough with my philosophical ramblings. The rest of this week I will be posting on technique. I didm’t play with my camera this weekend, but I did play with my printer. This was almost as good!

Sometimes a “like” is more than just a “like”.

I know there is some controversy on Instagram about “likes” and when to give them. I have plenty of friends among my followers who never like any photos and are quite proud of this fact. When they tell me this I just look at them quizzically and wonder “Why?” Why do you even bother participating in this community?

I will freely admit I like almost every photo I run across. Maybe this means my “likes” are meaningless, but they aren’t to me. I am not liking them for there stellar quality or there creativity (even though that is often the case), I am also liking them for the effort. I know how hard it is to get up each morning and be creative. Some days you are more successful than others; and to me it’s the effort that matters most.

I have a friend who works in public relations and one of her duties for her clients is to tell them they are wonderful…every day. Artists are often in a crisis of self confidence, self doubt comes with the territory. Putting your work in the public to be judged is hard on the psyche. Sometimes I want to add her to my payroll so I can have her do this same service for me on a daily basis. I guess I will settle for our occasional beer and pep talks.

So to everyone who shares their images publicly, I applaud you. You are doing the work and it isn’t easy. Know I will always be there to like your photo and cheer you on because we all need a cheering section.

Are you a “happy liker” like me?
Do you have a cheering section to help you get over the rough patches?

















My best friend Kitty with her dogs Kipper and Minty. 

It’s not all about the art.

Sometimes I think the goal is to make a great emotionally packed image and sometimes I don’t. If it was all about the perfect photo then why are we sharing on Instagram, Facebook, Flickr and Google+? These are all social media sites aimed at connecting people with like interests. People you know and people you don’t know…yet.

I recently received in the mail a very special print from +Me2. It is my favorite image of his (amongst many) and I will cherish it for many years. He is someone I wouldn’t even know existed if it wasn’t for this amazing thing we call the internet. This past weekend I went out photographing with good friends, all of whom I have met through the power of social media. A few weekends ago I met a couple of lovely Instagramers from a town three hours away and because of mutual interests became fast friends.

Suffice it to say, my life is filled with new, old and future friends met through my interactions on multiple social media platforms.

I may not be able to sell a photograph to save my soul, but I know my life is all the richer for the friends and connections I have made all over this planet. My only goal now is to make enough money so I can take a world tour and meet everyone in person.

Now that would be a gift of inconceivable value.

What is most important to you as you play on your various social media sites? 
Why are you participating? 
What does it mean to you?

~ xxsjc

Now if only Me2 would drop by the blog soon, I am starting to get maudlin. I dread how far I might sink tomorrow  

What Is Your Inspiration?

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