What Else Did I Miss?

I have always felt that a university education is wasted on the young. I went straight to college after graduating from high school and I always felt this was a mistake. So when I picked up a new book last month called 101 Things to Learn in Art School I was intrigued to see what I had missed the first time around. It turns out a lot.

File this under things I have never thought about:

Photography forever altered our compositional sense. 

“The camera with its viewfinder that samples a portion of the world, changed our relationship to the frame. The understanding that the frame is artificial and that the world extends beyond it affects the way we compose images. Painters, such as Degas, allowed the frame to cut into figures and objects, implying that part of the subject lay outside of the view of the image. This was a radical change from the centered image of traditional painting where the space inside the frame was a metaphor for the world. Now, we see the edges of pictures as being vital and compositionally active, not dormant and arbitrary.” ~ 101 Things to Learn in Art School by Kit White

This seems at once so obvious and yet so completely foreign to me. In the photography world you hear so much about the Rule of Thirds, but that is only one approach; and a rather safe one at that.

As I move forward into the new year and continue to practice the art of toy photography, I will be paying more attention to this frame and its relationship to the subject. It is time to move beyond the old standard “rule of thirds” and be a little more daring.

I wonder what else I missed in art school?

~ xxsjc

Resistance is Futile

 

Je Suis Charlie

If being part of this toy photography community has taught me anything, it is that we are all connected. We are one planet, one people with many of the same hopes, dreams, cultural touchstones and pastimes. The reaction to the horror that was yesterdays news was played out in the toy community just like it was everywhere else.

I am proud of my fellow Lego photographers who posted their own poignant responses to Wednesdays tragedy.  TheCourtous created the following image that was reposted by many in the community.

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“Don’t be afraid” by TheCourtous

I have posted before about playing with toys while the world burns around us, but this time I want to make a stand. I am tired of being afraid to say what I think. I don’t want to feel like the terrorists have won because we are the silent majority.

When I see a comment like this:

“Must we bring Islamic State into the lego community? Nice pick and caption but lets keep it politic free please. Or God only knows what would happen.”

I know the answer is a resounding “Yes! If not now, when?”

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Je Suis Charlie by AdultFanofLego

I know the threads that bind us are tenuous, but they are there. If we can find a connection through Instagram and our mutual love of toys I know we can find them over other issues. Now more than ever it is important for us to reach across to our fellow humans (no matter what their beliefs or their religion) and extend the hand of friendship.  Our community is filled with children and young adults; we must show them that there is a better way. A way filled with tolerance, understanding and a willingness to put aside our differences for the sake of the larger community which we all belong, it’s called humanity.

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Je Suis Charlie by MiniFigLife

Personally I don’t care what a persons religious beliefs are, I support everyone’s freedom to say what is on their mind in a respectful way. But I can’t turn over the world I currently inhabit to my kids without something changing. I hope that we can learn from our experiences here within this community and change the world around us, one toy photographer at a time.

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Je Suis Charlie by HLMLego

As we continue to grieve for the families of those who lost their lives on Wednesday, January 7th I hope you will join with me to help strengthen our bonds and raise our voices in protest. Enough is enough.

Thank you for listening.

~ xxsjc

If you have any comments about the Lego communities reaction or your own to these latest tragic events, please share them below. The more we talk, the more bridges we can build. 

The Runaway Bunny

I try to not talk about projects I am working on until they are completed. There is this weird phenomena that takes place if you talk about a project too much…it never happens. At least that is my personal experience. This is why I am just now telling you about my all consuming fall 2014 project: recreating Margaret Wise Brown’s classic children’s book The Runaway Bunny using Lego photos that I took.

You may have noticed an increase in Lego bunny rabbit shots on both this blog and on my Instagram feed last fall and now you know why.

I was approached last spring to do a Lego photography book based on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick but that project fell through. Even though I was disappointed by this, it did inspire me to look for another similar project. I dismissed Moby Dick and several other books, both short and long, for a variety of reasons and eventually settled on The Runaway Bunny.

I set myself a strict deadline of December 1st for completion so I would have time to get it printed and wrapped up for my children by Christmas Eve. (I have found looming deadlines to be a good defense against the inevitable procrastination.)

I had a great time on this project and discovered some shots, like this one, were fun and easy to get.

The final photo from The Runaway Bunny where mother bunny offers her wayward offspring a carrot when he finally returns home.
“Have a carrot.”

While others, like this one, I chased for several months.

Mother bunny from The Runaway Bunny is fishing for her wayward son who has decided to be a fish instead of a bunny.
“I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.”

If you were a recipient of my Best of 2014 Legography book you know that two of the images created for this project were in my top 12 for the year. I couldn’t have been more pleased with how my first completed book project turned out.

Here is my initial take away on the project:

  • Goals are good.
  • Complicated shots need to be pre-arranged before you hit the great outdoors.
  • Working within a specific frame work is creativly freeing.
  • Hand made books make awesome gifts.
  • The Runaway Bunny is not as well known as Goodnight Moon even though they are by the same author / illustrator team and have much in common.

Now that I am free from the constraints of this book project, my typical free form style of shooting seems rather boring and meaningless. I guess it is time to look around for another book project!

~ xxsjc

Do you have any suggestions for a book you would like to see recreated with Lego photography? 

Wikitoybox

Its hard to believe that the great Las Vegas Toy Photograper meet up is less than two weeks away! A small idea conceived amongst friends so many months ago is about to take place. Besides seeing old friends,  I am looking forward to meeting three long time Instagram friends. I have already talked about Captain Kaos and Krash_Override and today I want to introduce you to Ki Chen otherwise known as Wikitoybox. Ki is a breath of fresh air on Instagram. Not only does she take wonderful photos with her iPhone, she designs her own toys and is a positive voice within the toy community.

Ki has created her own line of resin toys around colorful poop. In a community dominated by guys I am sure you can image that these have been very popular. (I hear she will be bringing them with her to Vegas and I will have to pick up a few more.)

I Poop When I Steal by Ki Chen
I Poop When I Steal by Ki Chen

I am always impressed with what Ki can accomplish with her phone; she is a master of the photo edit. She knows when to use those specialty photography applications to benefit the overall image rather than overwhelm it.

I Swear it Wasn't Me! by Ki Chen
I Swear it Wasn’t Me! by Ki Chen

I find I am drawn to toy photographers that mix up their feeds with more than just Lego toys. There is so much happening in the collectable toy universe that it is fun to see what is new and has people excited.

Optimus Needs Help With the Level on Zelda by Ki Chen
Optimus Needs Help With the Level on Zelda by Ki Chen

Sometime you see a shot that is just plain beautiful on every level,  like this image of a dunny being painted by HO model railroad people. The lightening, sense of scale and short depth of field make this a really fantastic image; one of my favorites by Ki.

There’s Always Room for Improvement by Ki Chen

Of course it is not lost on me that Ki is one of the most respected members of the toy photography community. She is a wonderful photographer, dedicated toy designer and she commands the respect of her peers within the community through her gentle and kind nature.

Ki Chen is one of those amazing people who make the toy community a better place and I look forward to taking our online friendship to a new level.

~ xxsjc

Practice Makes Permanence

I want to thank Me2 for holding down the blog while I was distracted with real life. I certainly had grand ideas about posting once or twice during my travel week, but that never actually happened. What did happen was I practiced my craft…every day.

I went into this travel week with high expectations. With our group show just around the corner I was hoping for just one more killer image to include. As the week progressed I realized that the most important task at hand was not the perfect image but practicing my craft. I took the focus off the perfect image and focused on practicing what I love to do: macro toy photography.

My daughters piano teacher once said to her: “Practice makes permanence.” While this seems pretty obvious for learning the piano, it also works for photography. With practice you get faster at sizing up any outdoor location and lighting situation as a potential backdrop. I have also learned which mini figures work best for me; not every mini figure is created equally. Hopefully with more practice in the coming year those killer images will become more frequent.

As we move into 2015 I could talk about high flying new years resolutions, but honestly I think that simply continuing to practice my craft and push the boundaries of what I have already put into place will be challenge enough.

~ xxsjc

Did you make any photography new year’s resolutions?

If you did, is there anything we can do to support you?

Robot Sunset

The Photo Challenge Books Begin to Arrive!

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Photo courtesy of @Herrsm

The books created for the Best of 2014 Photo Challenge are starting to arrive. I have seen several posts on IG featuring books by both Me2 and myself so I know they are arriving at their destinations.  I have received a handful myself and I can understand the enthusiasm that the recipients feel. Opening each book is a true gift; a gift of the heart.

These little books are packed with memories, back stories, unique presentations and of course lots of outstanding photographs. Each book reflects the individual creator, but they also represent everything good about our toy photography community. In short they are amazing!

The stories I have read within their pages reflect the camaraderie, the joy, the relationships and the common experiences that bind us together. I am pretty sure that Me2 and I are the true winners in this endeavor because we will receive eight to nine books each. A veritable treasure trove of photography goodness.

So to everyone who took the plunge and created a book I thank you for making this a truly special holiday.

~ xxsjc

There where seven participants in the book exchange; Sweden (2), Germany (1), Turkey (1),  Columbia (1), United States (3), Belgium (1)

Should we do this again? If so, how often?  

If we do this again, would you like the opportunity to exchange with everyone who participates? 

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Photo courtesy of @sandi_gee

To Thine Own Self Be True

When this blog started it was party of two, just Me2 and myself. Then we invited Avanaut to join us a few months ago for a variety of reasons, our upcoming group show for one.  But let’s be clear, it is very hard on my ego to be sharing a blog with Avanaut. After his post yesterday that revealed the level of detail he is willing to explore to capture a photo, this was both humbling and intimidating.

I have never shied away from a challenge and this one is no different. I like that fact that Avanaut keeps the bar raised high; it keeps me reaching and striving for my own version of an incredible photograph.  I will continue to push myself so that in my own eyes, we stand on equal footing.

I know I have come along way since I started on my own journey several years ago as a toy photographer.  When I first ran across Avanaut’s work  I didn’t even know what toy photography was. I was merely a distant admirer in awe of what he was able to accomplish with forced perspective, Lego and some baking powder. It makes my head spin a little to know that in just a few months I will be sharing wall space in a gallery with one of the people who has been a major influence.

Will my work be able to stand up to the inevitable comparison? Probably not, but I am not worried. We are each on our own journey that makes sense for our individual needs; and this is how it should be. Avanaut strives to capture a specific world, to bring a beloved movie to life, to recreate and understand that world in all its complexity. While I am on a journey to discover the world I live in. I want to understand my own humanity and I seem to have found the perfect vehicle in the lowly Lego mini figure.

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” ~ William Shakespeare

~ xxsjc

If you are new to Stuck in Plastic, please take a moment and look around; I hope you will like what you find. If you are already a fan of Stuck in Plastic, thank you for your continued support! 

Help! Who Should Be My Travel Buddies?

One of the ways my family copes with the chaos of the holidays is we escape them. Next week we are off on another travel adventure that will undoubtedly include some outdoor toy photography.

I have to start packing my Lego mini figures soon, but I don’t know which ones? Frankly I’m overwhelmed and a bit frazzled going into the holidays (I know, aren’t we all!), and I need some help choosing the subjects of the photos you will be seeing over the upcoming months.

I have more than a few mini figures so you can also think of this as a game of “Does she have…?”  Please keep in mind I will be on sandy beaches, old lava flows of black sharp rocks and at least one volcano, plus the usual tropical vegetation;  the possibilities are endless.

You can also think of this as a way to challenge me photographically. As you may have already noticed I have my favorite mini figs and accessories. By suggesting your favorite mini figure(s) you can help me to break out of my rut and try something new!

Any and all suggestions will be considered and if feasible, included. So what do you say, who should my travel buddies be?

~ xxsjc

Who are your favorite Lego mini figures to photograph?

If you where ship wrecked on a desert island, what mini figures would you want to have with you? 

Landing Party

 

CC: Creative Class

I appreciate yesterdays post by Me2 . It was a thoughtful response to the article about artist Christopher Boffoli and his legal actions against Pinterest.

This is a complicated issue that has many sides and Me2 has addressed just a few of them. Sure we need to think out side the box to make sure that artists are credited fairly for their artistic creation be it a photograph, a movie or a song as it is passed around the internet. But lets call all of this what it really is…content. We are all content creators. With every Instagram post, pin to Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter update…rest assured , we are creating content that Big Inc. is packaging and selling right back to us.

Me2 says we should all get on board and share freely with an updated distribution model, just like the music and movie industry has done. That may be well and true, but the last I saw, this issue is still up for debate, especially in the music industry. Most middle level and beginning musicians still have not cracked the money question.

Prime example of this is the band Pomplamoose who’s lead singer, Jack Conte, wrote an article detailing the band’s touring costs that was picked up by Tech Crunch.  The gist of the article was about how   a modestly successful mid level band can’t make money when they tour and that they have to think out side the box to make ends meet. The article was roundly criticized on many fronts and I think the heart of what Jack had to say was overlooked in this firestorm. The concept of a “creative class”; that group of artists that does whatever it takes to keep the lights on by creating content to distribute via the internet to their fans. This creative class may not lead the glamorous life of JayZ and Beyonce, but it can be a rewarding one.

I think it is in the best interest of the Big Inc.’s  of the world to support these content creators (je: us) by creating new ways to address copyright concerns. How tough can it be to educate their users about the correct way to Pin, Post, Tumble etc so that artists can benefit from their work being shared.

If we want the internets to remain a lively place to interact and share unique and original content, lets do more to protect the content creators…us.

~ xxsjc

Do you think of yourself as a member of the “creative class”?

Do you care that Big Inc makes money off of your creative endeavors? 

Krash_Override

The epic toy photography meet-up in Las Vegas, NV is less than five weeks away. I have already written about Captain Kaos who I am excited to meet; but Matt is not the only one I am looking forward to meeting. I am also excited that Dennis Taylor, otherwise know as Krash_Override on Instagram, will be joining us!

Dennis is one of the nicest people on IG and certainly one of the most talented people I have encountered. Not only does he take incredible photos, he makes his own unique toys. Just imagine toys made by a nicer version of Sid from Toy Story, but just as beautifully twisted.

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Dennis’s feed is a mixture of toy photography, custom builds in progress and new toy purchases. Basically an eclectic mix of toy fun. There is a constancy to all this madness though. Every monday morning I wake up and I am greeted by a photo of Shipwreck hung over from another weekend of debauchery. This has been going on so long I don’t think it would be Monday without seeing a new photo.

Mixed into his wonderfully gallery are photos of custom toys in various states of deconstruction. I enjoy watching the creative process take place, all the way from a new batch of less than stellar toys sent to him by friends, crazy half finished mash-ups, all the way to the often breathtaking finished creations. The transformation is absolutely fascinating and many times I can’t help but laugh at the wacky mashups that somehow always work.

It is easy to get side tracked by Dennis’s creative custom toys and forget he is an incredibly talented toy photographer. He really has an emotional connection to his toys and it shows through in his photography.

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It will be my absolute pleasure to spend the weekend shooting beside him, talking shop and swapping photo tips.

As Smeagol says: Vegas or Bust!

~ xxsjc

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If you are interested in joining us in Vegas, there is still time!

Have you ever tried to make your own custom toy?