My Muses

I have been asked more than once what are my favorite mini figures to photograph. Normally I would be diplomatic and tell you all of them, but I have come to realize some characters mean more to me than others. I am about to pack for another adventure and I want to only take my favorites, or as I like to refer to them, my muses. Continue reading My Muses

65 Million Years Ago …

In the beginning I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

I had been working on a dinosaur-themed comic book and purchased a few toy dinosaurs to help with anatomical designs. The Allosaurus was first, but soon followed by a Triceratops and a Velociraptor. All made by the French brand, Papo.

They had almost no articulation, but the detail of the sculpt and paintwork were unparalleled. That’s what really caught my attention, the realism of the figures. Continue reading 65 Million Years Ago …

Square Peg in Round Hole

I have been an active participant in the online toy photography community for three years and I almost always feel like a square peg in a round hole, I simply don’t fit in.  This feeling has been growing the last few months to the point where I want to chuck the whole thing and run in a more appropriate direction.

You’re probably scratching your head and wondering how could this be? Let me outline exactly how I don’t fit into this amazing group of people.

First, there is my age. Continue reading Square Peg in Round Hole

Bricks Culture

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There are two new magazines launching on April 13th, 2015 that are aimed at LEGO fans. The first one is a monthly called Bricks which will include set reviews, regular columns and interviews with staff at The LEGO Group (as it is currently pitched this magazine will be similar to Blocks magazine currently available). The sister publication to Bricks, called Bricks Culture, is the one I am more interested in. This magazine is a quarterly publication aimed at LEGO and how it intersects with pop culture.

We here at StuckinPlastic are excited for the launch of this magazine because the editorial staff has been incredibly supportive of us. In the inaugural issue they will be featuring an article on the In Lego, We Connect exhibition and we couldn’t be more thrilled. (Personally I am curious what they will say.)

Bricks Culture will also be featuring one of our favorite LEGO bloggers, David Alexander Smith. David is capable of defining LEGO and it’s surrounding culture in a much broader social context. I find his point of view refreshing; I hope his views will get the larger platform they deserve.

I am concerned that the staff of these new magazines has only include one woman on its list of contributors. I think if you they are trying to reach a broader audience, beyond those steadfast AFOL’s,  having a larger woman’s point of view could be useful. But I am willing to take a wait and see attitude on how this develops.

In the meantime I have my subscription to Bricks Culture ordered and I hope you will at least give issue #1 a try (they are offering both print and digital versions of the magazine). You can order the first issue or the entire first year here. I would love to see this project succeed since it is relevant to what we do on Instagram, Flickr, Facebook, etc.

All though publishing in the age of the internet and a fast moving information stream seems a bit like a Sisyphean task, I will be rooting for them to succeed!!!

~ xxSJC

Is a magazine like this something you are interested in? Regardless of your answer I would be curious your opinion. 

If you would like  to read about the fine folks people behind these magazines I will send you to Brickset for the official press release.  

Captain Kaos

When I began writing this, I went about it all-wrong…

I treated it as an assignment. “Why do I photograph toys…?” Hmmmmm.

I went off on an “artsy-fartsy” tangent and got all philosophical. “I PHOTOGRAPH TOYS BECAUSE THEY ARE THERE!” Or something like, “Well, often times my figures express how I am feeling much more succinctly than I ever could….” Maybe even, “The question that lies at the very core of our existence as human beings may perhaps, be answered by a photo of that ONE action figure, HARUMPH!”

Of course, that’s all absolute nonsense and the answer to the question – WHY – is much more simple than any of that.

When I was growing up, my Father was an Officer in the United States Army. When asked what I wanted to be when I grow up, my answer was always “I wanna be an Army man like my Dad!” I can directly attribute my enormous collection of G.I. Joe figures (yes, the originals with fuzzy beards and Kung-fu grip) and plastic green army men to being raised as an Army Brat. Those figures suffered through unimaginable battles. I’d melt pieces of them out, create a small hole and place shredded cotton, colored red with a marker, in the holes to simulate blood…than take them outside, set them up somewhere and take pictures.

After I’d burn up a roll of Kodak 110, my Mom would take that film to get them developed somewhere…I vaguely remember a shack in the middle of a parking lot off of Highway 440 in Killeen, Texas. Than, what seemed like many years later, we’d get the developed roll back and I’d tear open the envelope to stare at my glorious war scenes I’d recreated! Of course, the photos were terrible, out of focus and blurry. But I had taken an idea I had in my imagination and “made it” real.

FANTASTIC!

Star Wars captured my imagination in 1977 like it did every other kid of my age at the time. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Stormtroopers, Darth Vader…. light sabers, blasters, A DEATH STAR! Let me say that again and this time imagine you’re nine years old, sitting in a movie theater, speechless, and a figure clad in black armor, wearing a helmet that looks like it’s from one of your nightmares, mentions THE DEATH STAR! WHAT ? ! ? My toy photography took off in a new direction…

I spent many, many hours setting up R2-D2 and C-3PO in the playground trying to recreate scenes from Star Wars. Hard to do with the limited number of figures available at the time, but damn if I didn’t try my hardest.

Fast-forward thirty years and toy photography has become my “creative outlet”. I’ve always done it, before there was a name for it and long before social media existed. A few years ago, I was messing around with a clone trooper from the Star Wars saga and on a whim I posted it to Instagram. It wasn’t anything fancy. The trooper was sitting at the end of a beach chair and I was fortunate enough to catch some lens flare. Surprisingly, the picture was a hit with (GASP) other toy photographers!

There were OTHER people that were doing the SAME THING!

My weird little hobby had found a home. I’ve met some incredibly talented people in “IG Land”. I’ve been inspired, amazed and sometimes, literally speechless when scrolling through my feed. So many talented people across the globe, all taking pictures of toys, with the dedication, enthusiasm and achieving the results you’d expect to see in an art museum.

So why do I photograph toys?

I guess because I always have. It’s a part of who I am. I’m always looking for a way to improve my shots and discovering new techniques to employ. I enjoy the entire process. Toy photography is a small and fairly specialized genre… I certainly hope I’m part of it when it’s noticed AND respected for what it is, by a much larger audience.

~ Matt Rohde

The beginning.
The beginning.

We are very happy to announce that starting next week Matt will be posting  a weekly feature here at StuckinPlastic and I couldn’t be happier! I have long admired his photography and the (often) poignant stories that accompany them. Matt has been a big inspiration to me and my own toy photography and after reading his “Why?” statement I understand that much better. I hope you will give him a very warm welcome. ~ xxSJC

This post is part of our “Why? series”, where we interview toy photographers around the world and ask them the simple question: Why?

Here are a few of the other iconic interviews: East Mountain, Jaiken, Balakov, …

The Bryan Ohno Gallery

We have talked much about the photographers behind the LEGO photography show In LEGO, We Connect, but we have not mentioned the man who has made it all possible: Bryan Ohno of the Bryan Ohno Gallery. I would like to take a moment to talk about what led to this partnership as well as to thank him for his own leap of faith.

Bryan and I go way back to a time when I was creating beautiful sensual underwater figurative photography. We had worked together for a few years in the early 2000’s; which seems a life time ago. When Bryan contacted me in the summer of 2013 to ask me to show my work in an upcoming show on sensuality, I was both surprised and pleased to rekindle our friendship. I had to explain to him that my energies had moved away from figurative work and I had discovered a new passion – toy photography. Although I decided to participate in the Get Naked show, I knew that I ultimately wanted to show my LEGO photography in his gallery. I would just have to prove to him it was worthy of his time.

I really like Bryan’s motto: “to feature works that blur the line between art and science, challenge art traditions, and embrace evolving cultural intersections.” I really feel strongly that what Me2, Avanaut and I create with LEGO falls squarely under this philosophy. It really felt like a perfect match of gallerist and artists.

If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting Bryan he is full of boundless energy. He is quick to smile, easy to interact with and makes the whole process of collecting art fun and never intimidating. I have spent many an afternoon engaged in spirited discussion with Bryan about whoever he is currently showing. My favorite was his recent showing of Yumiko Glover. I am still pondering her work and its multiple meanings.

When I presented my idea of a group show of only Lego toy photographers back in the summer of 2014, Bryan will be the first to say it was my passion for this project that piqued his interest. Over the course of a few months we had several conversations regarding the state of photography, Lego, and talked about calendar placement. I did my best to educate him on everything I knew about toy photography, Instagram and the amazing Lego community that I am a part of. By the fall of 2014 we knew when the show would open and who our major players would be. (Trust me when I say I had to take my own leap of faith when I approached Avanaut to participate.)

I tell you all this because this show is a true partnership of artists / curator and now collectors. Me2, Avanaut and I would love to have the opportunity to do this again both at Bryan’s charming gallery, or some other gallery in this big wide world. But to do that, we have to show that there is an audience for our work.

If you get a chance to check out the gallery and the show in person, be sure and take a few moments to get to know Bryan. Thank him for  taking his own leap of faith in presenting this unique show. And if you have the wall space, I hope you will consider supporting his gallery by purchasing some LEGO photography. By doing this you will ensure that he will continue to present interesting shows that reflect and embrace these evolving cultural intersections that Lego photography inhabits.

~ xxsSJC

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Eureka! (or the joy of toy photography)

People enjoy photography for many reasons; documenting their daily lives,  a creative outlet, an opportunity to be a part of a new community or just the cool toys they get to play with . Me, I crave that Eureka! moment. You know the one…when you look through your view finder and see your photograph  just as you envisioned it. Or maybe it’s later when you check your shot on your camera or computer screen and you see something that makes you go “wow!”

I had two of those moments while I was in Las Vegas for the #vegastoyphotosafari. Honestly, they are what I Iive for.

The first came on Saturday while we were shooting as a group in the desert. I knew I’d gotten the shot I had been thinking about long before I arrived in Las Vegas. I turned around and raised my arms and gave a victory shout. Wikitoybox was watching me and started laughing. I didn’t care, it was just one of those great uninhibited, joyous moments.

The second time came late on Sunday evening when we were shooting photos near a colorful fountain. Even though I had my ISO turned up it wasn’t enough to compensate for the changing low light. My shutter speed slowed down and created some seriously freaky effects with the skeletons I had placed behind Deadpool. I showed the results to krash_override and we both were equally fascinated with the crazy in-camera effects.

After 30 years of taking photos it’s nice to still feel those moments of joy and exhilaration at capturing something new and surprising with my camera. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world and I truly hope you have had one (or many) yourself!

~ xxsjc

Have you ever had one of these eureka! moments? If so, would you care to share it with us?

Landing Party

Fair Play – Part III

At the risk of beating a dead horse  I want to revisit the issue of fair play and Lego System A/S that we talked about last week.  Me2 and I don’t always see eye to eye and his habit of adding the TM symbol to his words has always seemed pretentious to me, but after last week I think he is on the right track (he just promised me he will elaborate on his Why™ in another post here pretty soon).

Our original post was re-posted to Reddit and the reaction was alarming in its passivity. It seems that most fans in the Lego universe are more than happy to let Lego roll right over them without even a whimper as they believe it would only impact those who would want to sell their work. The over riding sentiment expressed in the comments was that Lego was well within their legal rights and that we, their customers, fans and LEGO artists need to watch our step.

Seriously? What has this world come too when we think corporations have the right to tell us how to create, show and ultimately sell our own creations? What would Andy Warhol have said if the Campbell’s Soup company had sent him a cease and desist order when he first exhibited his now iconic soup cans? I am pretty sure he would have laughed and kept printing his silk screens. So why are we taking this sitting down?

If the Andy Warhol example is too esoteric for you how about this one which hits a little closer to home: Peter Reid. If you are not familiar with Peter Reid he created the fabulous book LEGO Space published by No Starch Press. Oh and he is also the guy who designed Lego Ideas #6135: Exo Suit. You may have heard of it? You probably own one since Lego has been selling it for a few months now. I want to respectfully point out to Lego System A/S that you can’t have it both ways.

Recently a related issue was brought to my attention regarding a popular company (Ikea) and it’s enthusiastic fans (IkeaHackers). Last summer Ikea tried to shut down the popular web site that is dedicated to finding new and more interesting ways to use Ikea furniture. There was a public outcry and Ikea backed down. I guess it doesn’t pay to piss off your devoted core.

Do you really think that if Lego System A/S got nasty and removed ALL photos with Lego imagery off RedBubble and related sites (yes, including Flickr since the basis of the IP infringement claim starts at publishing and Flickr has been making noises about monetizing fan art uploaded onto their website) that the outcry wouldn’t be as outraged as the Ikea controversy? I am pretty sure it would be more financially damaging in terms of bad publicity and a pissed off fan base than any revenue lost due to these “illicit” products.  No one likes a $14.6 billion dollar bully.

Personally I think we are all well within our rights to photograph our toys and sell the images as a unique piece of art to enjoy in your home (we are not talking about licensing stock photography here to be used in a commercial campaign as that is a completely different topic, and we fully recognize that). I am pretty sure most of these artists photos would not be confused with Lego’s own marketing campaigns or franchise business and the financial damage (if any) the company might be incurring is well lets be real…it’s minimal and far less than the community gives back exponentially. If Lego doesn’t like us creating art with their shiny plastic bricks and having us share this with the world, than they should speak out now with a clarified Far Play notice rather than these random take down notices.

This whole fair play discussion is not about the ultimate sale of a piece of art (that is just the financial recognition that someone liked what you did), but about the fact we should own the unrestricted rights to do with our art what we want (as long as it does not violate any other laws like discriminating or racial ones), which is to share, publicize and ultimately gain some financial recognition from it if we choose to do so.

I for one will continue to promote my work with the ultimate end game of monetizing it. While I am not interested in selling through RedBubble, I applaud those who do. If I ever get a “cease and desist” order, personally I am going to laugh all the way to the fireplace where I will promptly burn it.

So I say to Big INC™, I am not afraid of you and I am tired of being bullied by you!

~ xxsjc

Should we let this topic die a slow death or keep talking about it?

Who knew?
Who knew?

An Oasis in the Desert

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Eight months ago, Shelly (@xxsjc) Paul (@bricksailboat) Nick (@wiiman) and I sat at a bar in Seattle, enjoying a cold beer on a warm afternoon, having just finished a group photography outing. We marveled at the engaging experience our photo safaris tended to be and decided to invite others to come meet us… in Las Vegas.

Last weekend, I found myself in the beautiful Nevada desert taking photos of toys with a dozen other people. They had traveled from miles away to hang out (and in my case bunk) with folks they had never met. Each had their own artistic abilities, interests and styles, but the rocky landscapes seemed to bring out everyone’s best. Figures were borrowed and techniques were discussed, all with a peppering of laughter and playful competition. We got to know each other throughout the weekend, but nothing was more impressive to me than the positive attitudes and good-natured sensibilities that I encountered from this amazing group of artists.

While waiting to board my flight home I thought about why I felt so good. Why did I have such a strong sense of pride about a silly little meet-up? Two things come to mind. First, because we actually did it. People talk all the time about things they ‘want to do’ but we just did it. That is tragically rare and utterly awesome. Secondly, because I have been fortunate to photograph toys with my friends and it was wonderful to help others see how great that can be. Photography tends to be an isolating experience in many ways, but if you can go shooting with another person it becomes altogether different, if not improved.

We’ve begun talking about the next #toyphotosafari and I look forward to seeing my friends again, but nothing has me more excited than the thought of adding to our numbers. Finding others who love to take pictures of toys, bringing them together and share the fun of group photo sessions; that’s the new challenge and reward ahead.
That’s why I feel so good.
Jaiken – @dinoczars

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