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

K. I. S. S.

K. I. S. S. stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid”.

I was reminded of that simple phrase when +Christoffer Östberg posted this photo of Embo to G+ today. When you are editing photos on an iPad or iPhone it is so convenient to whip out an effects app to create a little mystery or a little sparkle.

It was inspiring to hear Christoffer say this mysterious effect was simply the smoke rising from a recently extinguished match. It was great to see him take advantage of the macro format as well as the unpredictable element of the rising smoke.

So not only did I walk away with a great reminder of one of the basic tenants of photography, I was also inspired to try something new.

Oh…and did I mention that I now have a serious case of mini figure envy.

~ xxsjc

My Latest Near Win

I hope you had a chance to read +Me2‘s latest blog post “Day IV”. Even though he is already suffering from blogging fatigue, it was a good one. If you didn’t get a chance to watch the excellent TED talk on the near win by Sarah Lewis, I urge you to give it a view. If you would like the condensed version I refer you to the following quote by Imogen Cunningham

“ Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” 

As an artist I can qualify the near win into two categories. The first is the image that I have created that doesn’t meet my expectations. The image I present to you today falls into this category. I really like the image and I felt I got close to the emotion I was trying to convey, a mother watching over her new children. I wanted a leading line towards mom and I will probably need to rearrange them to better achieve that effect. The main reason I will retake this photo is the rock surface; I would have preferred a softer ground for the baby spiders more suggestive of a nursery setting. I do love a challenge and I will be taking this picture again as soon as it stops raining. 

The second type of near win is the dissatisfaction that comes from growing as a photographer. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen an image for the first time as it emerges from the printer and have been blown away by the finished product. But over time familiarity and the emergence of the next new image has me feeling dissatisfied with the first image. No matter how wonderful it might have been at initial glance, I now barely give it a second look. 

It is these near wins that keep me motivated to move forward and to keep making new images. I hope you will value your near wins and realize they are a natural part of growing as a photographer and as an artist.  

~ xxsjc

Challenge Yourself!

This month I took on a 30-day photo challenge offered up by one of the many toy groups on Instagram. I have always resisted the 365 photo-a-day project or other challenges. For one thing, I knew I did not have the discipline to post a photo a day and I also wanted to do my own thing.

But lately I have been feeling lost and unispired.

This challenge has been the perfect antidote. I spend most of my waking days rolling the various words around in my head to see what images come up. Basically this has become an all encompassing pursuit. Of course I will conveniently ignore the fact that I was stuck on the phrase “too much” for three days and be happy for the image I did eventually create. Sure I pulled a couple of photos out of my back pocket (so to speak) that have never seen the light of day, but thats ok. Some times images sit on my iPad until the right time to post reveals itself.

Personally if I end this challenge with nothing other than the image below, I will consider this a month very well spent. One good image in a month of shooting seems like a pretty good ratio to me.

So, if you are feeling blah about your photography or need a little poke in the butt – then sign up for a photo-a-day challenge. You might surprise your self, I know I did.

If you decide to take on a photo-a-day challenge, I will be there to cheer you on!

~ xxsjc

The Green Room is Humming

I can’t tell you how thrilled +Me2 and I are that several awesome fellow photographers have joined our Green Room, introduced themselves and metaphorically lashed their boats too ours. It feels great to begin this journey, where ever it will lead us.


The door is still open for any like minded photographers to join. Check out the Green Room and see who your fellow travelers will be. It’s a chatty and varied group. 


In the mean time I hope you will give some thought as to what you would like to be doing with your photography that is not Instagram / internet related. Would you like to learn to print your images? Would you like to exhibit your work? Are you interested in selling or licensing your work? Would you like editing or shooting tips? Do you need help setting up a web site? 

Please leave your comments below and I can focus upcoming blog posts based on your interests. 

– xxsjc

Back to Square One!

I was researching 500px today in my continuing quest to find other amazing toy photographers and I was impressed by the quality of the photos presented. If you are not familiar with 500px it is a photo sharing site similar to Flickr. It also has a secondary feature called 500px Prime which is designed to match advertisers up with photographers happy to sell their photos for $250US. You can purchase royalty free usage of any of these incredible photos, which gives the purchaser the right to use the photo, in any way they see fit, for as long as they want. That is an incredible deal! 

If this doesn’t prove my point that photography has been rendered valueless by the sheer volume of images being produced, I don’t know what does. 

I think it is time to go back to square one or at least January 1. 

My New Years resolution this year was to take myself less seriously and I think it’s high time to revisit this idea. Toy photography should be (and is) fun! 

I’m open to a revolution but my revolution will need to include a fair amount of silliness and fun. And maybe, through my lego photos, I can bring a few extra smiles into the world. 

Viva la Revolution!! 

~ xxsjc