Assembling the #toydinosquad

When I started posting photos of toy dinosaurs on Instagram I was alone. I searched through any hashtag I could think of to try and find anyone doing what I was doing. The big toy photography group pages we’re filled with Stormtroopers, Super Heroes and Lego, but no other prehistoric creatures. I would get comments like “Original idea!” which was nice to hear, but reinforced how out on my own I was. Or so I thought. Continue reading Assembling the #toydinosquad

do we have to narrow it down to only 5?

i’ve been perusing all of the “what’s in your bag” and “favorite five” posts here on #stuckinplastic and it got me thinking. i’ve been doing a daily photo project since soon after i got my first dslr (a nikon D60) in 2008, but i do it more for the daily memories and out of mindfulness than because i feel like a Photographer or legographer, so it feels odd to imagine sharing my camera bag. Continue reading do we have to narrow it down to only 5?

My Style

Recently when my friend Bricksailboat wrote a piece on style and talked about the elements that make up his personal style, it struck a cord with me. I have also been giving some thought to style and what makes my own photographs unique as well as struggling with how to stay relevant with my work. Continue reading My Style

The One

Recently Me2 requested that each of the regular contributors at the blog answer the relatively simple question; “What is that one image that was an epic game changing experience?” Both Me2 and Avanaut have answered this question quite eloquently and I find myself trying to do the same. Continue reading The One

take me back to the paleolithic era!

i recently had the good fortune to interview one of the LEGO designers behind the new jurassic world line-up (look for that piece in the upcoming issue of Bricks). and it rekindled my childhood love of dinosaurs.

as a kid, i loved hunting for fossils out at the river (the river being the missouri). i found various shells and plant bits in the shale and marveled that they might be as old as 60 million years, even tho’ i couldn’t really even grasp that number.

i always insisted that we stop at every touristy rock shop in the black hills and i scoured the ground on scorching summer days in the badlands of south dakota, hoping to find a tooth from a saber-toothed tiger. i dreamed of being a paleontologist, but abandoned those dreams early, thinking that everything would already be discovered by the time i grew up (back then, growing up seemed so impossibly far away).

i thrilled when i read of the discovery of sue, the most intact t-rex fossil ever found – you guessed it – in south dakota. (so i was kind of right, all the good stuff was already discovered.) i loved that sue ended up at chicago’s field museum, where i could visit her, since i was living there at the time. and although i moved to denmark before she was up and on display, i did go back and visit her a time or two anyway. and she is magnificent.

all of this came flooding back after my interview with nick and i had to get me some dinosaurs. now, on these long, light summer evenings, i can lay on my belly in the grass in our back yard, posing my raptors and my dilophosaurus in the glorious golden light and dreaming of all those fossils out there, yet to be found.

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A Brief Pause

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind and I thought it would be nice to take a brief pause to  catch our collective breath and highlight a few posts from the past two weeks.

Early in June, it became clear to me that as my blogging partners took some much deserved time off it would be a challenge to fill the blog on a daily basis. Not only was Avanaut off on vacation but Me2 was wrapping up loose ends at BigInc. getting ready for his annual vacation / LEGO adventure. The up shot of all this travel would be four weeks of limited help from my blogging mates.

We have made it half way through our short handed staffing and I am amazed at how we have come together as a community!

It was wonderful to see some new additions to our series: “Why?” (as in, why do you take toy photographs). They ran the gamut from how art can save your life to a wonderful reminder from Brett Wilson that when it is all said and done, toy photography is about community and the friends we make.

I really felt Julochka’s post about traveling with her friend Fuzz put to shame all the earlier posturing about who took the earliest toy photographs. I am pretty sure 20 years ago most of us where not traveling around the world with our own beloved bear and photographing him at amazing scenic spots. Way to go Julie!

I loved BrickSailboat’s piece on what makes up his personal style. It is a great reminder that even if you are going to Steal Like an Artist, you still have to develop your own style.

In addition to these fresh voices on the blog, Balakov and Avanaut have been willing to share even more of their expertise and insight than usual. Both have revealed their five favorite mini figures; Balakov showed us that playing with your food can lead to some incredible photography; and Avanaut broke away from Hoth long enough to snap a few quick underwater toy shots. (I will admit its pretty cool to share a blog with these two amazingly talented photographers.)

Lastly I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to comment on any of these posts. I know that some times technology can make that a difficult process, but your comments inspire us to keep going and often generate interesting blog ideas. Thank you dear readers for being an integral part of this StuckinPlastic community.

If you have not already done so, I hope you will take the time to read a few of the posts I have mentioned, as well as the many I didn’t. We have more amazing posts in the works and we look forward to sharing them with you!

~ xxSJC

Desert Island Mini Figures

We have been asked to share our top five mini figures with you. This is a variation on one of those Instagram tags that occasionally circle through the toy photography community. The last time I did this, my choices where not well thought out and I totally muffed it; this time I am hoping for a better result. Instead of sharing my top five mini figures though, I am going to tell you who I would want to be stranded on a  desert island with.

I know its a small distinction, but a crucial one. When you have all the collectable mini figures, classic space, TMNT, Ninjago, Star Wars, Middle Earth, Chima, Friends, Galaxy Squad, DC/Marvel, plus a fair amount of customs to choose from….the difficulty of narrowing it down to only five mini figures becomes a daunting task at best. So I am going to narrow my choices down to the five figures I would want to be stuck on a desert island with. Of course I am assuming I will still have a camera, fresh batteries, more than a few large SD cards and maybe a little internet access (a girl can fantasize…right?).

So without further ado, here is who I would pack and why?

1) Keiko, a Peter Reid designed robot

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Ok maybe he’s not a true mini figure, but I love this guy and he goes on all my photo outings with me. In fact he has his own traveling case separate from everyone else. This might explain why I am currently using Keiko v2 since I lost v1 sometime this spring. This ended up working pretty well since I am in procrastination mode and I am sorting all our LEGO. I was able build him better now that I can actually find all the right parts! Keiko is the ultimate explorer.

2) ClassicWhite  Space Explorer

classic lego white space man walks across the lava bed at Pu'uhonia O Honaunau while the waves crash behind him in a wall of white spray
Exploring Pu’uhonia O Honaunau

This was an easy choice, ok maybe not that easy. But when I looked at all my Classic Space, MTron, Galaxy Squad and Star Wars mini figures I chose the original, the one that started it all. He can represents all that is good about space exploration in one simple mini figure.

3) Eris (fire suit)

Watermarked Photo copy

I am pretty sure most people are aware that I have a strange strong affinity for the Chima LEGO line. This is probably because the Chima characters don’t have a lot of pop culture baggage attached to them. Playing with Chima is like photographing in a new universe, anything is possible. Eris, in her fire suit, embodies all that is good about the Chima line: a strong character, beautifully designed and fun to photograph.

4) Swamp Monster

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This is one of the first mini figures I purchased and he is still a favorite. (I am pretty sure I just outed myself as a newbie since this set came out in 2012). The Swamp Monster represents the perennial outsider questing for acceptance and love. Because he is at home in both water and on land, He is fun to photograph in any situation.

5) Velociraptor

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It’s always this last choice that trips me up. I could have chosen Cat Woman, Geisha Girl, a Ninja, Proto Boba Fett, the Watchers or one of the Native American mini figures just as easily. But I decided to go with the Lego Velociraptor because we have had so much fun together.

Now that you know who I would choose to pack on my desert island adventure, which LEGO mini figures would you choose?

~ xxSJC

Procrastination

This past week I have been in full blown procrastination mode a la Avanaut. I find myself doing practically anything instead of working on those large, self imposed, projects I set out for myself.

My procrastination is so bad, I am actually tackling the dreaded and tedious task of sorting LEGO, cleaning out my closets and of course escaping into the nearby wilderness with kids and friends in tow. Sure my house is cleaner, my LEGO is getting a much needed major reorganization and I have certainly enjoyed taking mini figure photos in some spectacular scenery; but those projects I set before me to do are still begging for my attention.

In fact there is a very cute little brown faced figure sitting on my desk, staring at me, wondering when we are going to get started on our project. I have to tell my little friend to be patient a little longer because I think this down time, this procrastination, is a good thing.

One of my favorite authors, Hillary Mantel, said this about procrastination:

Imagination only comes when you privilege the subconscious, when you make delay and procrastination work for you.

While I am working so hard not to work, I know my subconscious is busy working out the problems ahead of me. Instead of running head long into an impasse, I am slowly figuring out the work arounds. I think this is what Ms Mantel was talking about when she says: “make delay and procrastination work for you.”

I am learning to embrace these white spaces, the down time, and have faith that when the time is right, the photographs I am looking for will flow effortlessly.

In the mean time, I will leave you with a couple of very recent images that I couldn’t be happier with.

~ xxSJC

Watermarked Photo-1
Enjoying the Moment

memories of toy photos past

i came across some old photos recently and was reminded of my old friend fuzz. fuzz was a little scrunchy beanie baby. do you remember those? they were all the craze for awhile back in the late 90s.

nearly 20 years ago, when i was a serious graduate student on a fulbright scholarship to macedonia, i took fuzz everywhere. he’s been to the balkans, istanbul, russia, sweden, denmark, london and germany. and yes, he’s even been to the pyramids. i always had him in my backpack, sometimes riding on the outside, but often stuffed inside. he was imminently stuffable and didn’t mind it a bit. i could always whip him out, fluff him up a bit and pose him wherever i wanted. he saw all the sights.

i ended up talking to a lot of people on my travels, because they thought it was so sweet that i was photographing my teddy bear. and i honestly don’t remember ever being embarrassed that i was photographing a toy. i wonder where i lost that along the way?

i liked photographing him from behind best. he somehow seemed most thoughtful that way. it became a bit of a game to see how much expression i could get out of him without showing his face. even tho’ i was using one of those kodak advantix cameras in those days. you remember the ones? they were a film camera, but they had the gimmicky feature of allowing you to adjust between three sizes of photos along the way, including a panorama. i tried to save the panoramas for special occasions. honestly, i enjoyed that camera.

my favorite photo of him, i took at the hermitage museum in st. petersburg. he was posed looking wistfully at the fog out of a rather dilapidated window.  unfortunately, i didn’t come across that photo in the stack of photos i found, so i can’t share it.

the best part of that photo was that one of those old russian ladies who sits impassively on a stool in the museums, sternly frowning at the guests, lest they do anything like dare to touch one of the paintings, was so charmed by fuzz that she even pointed out several other places i should pose him for his picture and thanks to her he got to sit on some chairs that were otherwise roped off. so much fun for me, but i also think it was fun for her – a little bright spot in an otherwise boring day of frowning at people who got too close to the matisse. i’ll bet she still remembers it, just as i do.

maybe it’s actually a good thing i can’t find that photo. possibly it’s much better in memory than it was in reality.

Art Saves Lives

     Soon after I published my post The “Why?” Statement – guidelines, I received the following e-mail that I want to share with you. It brings up an important issue that directly address the underlying reasons many people create art. Often those reasons are too personal to share, but universal in nature and we need to talk about them.
Hi Shelly,
I apologize that it’s taken me so long to reply (once again). Things are finally starting to slow down a bit, and more terrifyingly, I seem to have some time to myself!
So, I’ve been going through the “Why?” series tonight and trying to get a handle on it. There are two obstacles that I’m not sure I can overcome, to be honest. The first is that I am incredibly uncomfortable writing about myself, though when pressed, I have certainly capitulated. The second (and likely more difficult obstacle) is that my answer to “Why?” isn’t especially happy. It extends far beyond the subject of photography, really, and I find it hard to separate it from the larger question of why I do anything at all. Why I am driven to excel; why am I driven to prove my worth over and over again?
You’re quite correct when you state that the answer may take some introspection, although I have actually been aware of this for some time now. I say this not to illicit sympathy, of course; it’s a statement of fact and I’ll admit that I’m somewhat embarrassed that the answer is so cliché – as the child of two self-involved alcoholics, I developed a habit of seeking their attention (and more importantly, their approval) through achievement.
It’s fair to say that this shaped me into a fiercely independent person. I was a shy but willful child, and thankfully had the presence of mind to make my own decisions. I would not become a doctor or lawyer or whatever high-paying, high-status vocation they’d propose; no, I would do things my way, and earn their respect my way.
30 year later, I’m still doing things my way (for better or for worse), and I do it because it’s what I want.
But on the rare occasion that mom messages me to praise a recent photo, I am that child all over again, and I am so proud.
     When I first read this I will admit it hit pretty close to home. I am also an adult child of an alcoholic and that experience informs my life and my actions over and over again. I have given much thought to how artists channel their pain, frustration, humiliation, anger, hurt …. whatever negative energy they have bottled up inside of them to create amazing art. I think there is real power in harnessing that emotional pain and turning it into something beautiful to share with the world. I have seen it over and over again in my friends who are also artists.
     So if this hits close to home for you I want you to know that you are not alone. We have all been there in one form or another. It is important to acknowledge that the pain and anger we carry around with us can be a gift if we choose to guide that emotional energy into something that we can share with the world. The simple act of creating art is incredibly therapeutic and a very real step on the road to healing oneself.
     So the next time you hear that old chestnut, “Art Saves Lives” remember, the life it saves, may be your own.
~ xxSJC