“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?
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!
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!
One thing that +Me2 and I agree on is that a good image is one in which the viewer makes an emotional connection with the image. As I look back through the last six months of my images I wonder if I can tell the difference. What makes one image of a small plastic person look more alive than another?
Is it the tilt of a head, is it particular movement of the legs, a small gesture of the curved hand or maybe just a trick of the light? It’s not like Lego is a particularly moveable, expressive toy figure. Yet some images seem alive while others just lie flat on the screen / paper.
+Me2 and I also agree on the importance of the eyes being in focus. Yet, not all the images I deem to have been successful include faces and in some the eyes are obscured. So while I know this is a part of the equation, I don’t think it is the answer.
This may seem like an inconsequential question but I have always approached my toy photography as an attempt to “bring the toys alive”. As a young girl my toys were very real to me. We chatted, they listened, they went every where with me and for lack of a better description, they were my friends. I want my viewer to feel what I feel while I document the lives of my little plastic friends.
As always some images are more successful than others and I cherish the ones that achieve that emotional element. I think I would be happy if I could crack the code and help people see how alive my little plastic friends are to me. Until I do, I will keep taking photos and hope people will connect with them as I do.
If you have any tips to help bring the toys “alive” I would love to hear them.
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.
I’ve been a photographer for a long time; some might even accuse me of being an artist. I don’t like labels, so I will continue to resist these labels and settle for being just a photographer. But one thing has remained constant throughout my life as a photographer: the struggle to create art. Even after 30 plus years I still struggle with the question: “Am I a real artist?”
As I was reading Steal Like an Artist, I realized chapter two had some pretty insightful things to say on this phenomena. Even if you follow there advice and look to your heroes to study, copy, emulate, attribute, transform, remix their influences until your source material becomes your own. Even if you do all of this successfully, then what? If you are like me you may still feel like a fake. I ask myself all of the time: Am I a REAL artist?
It turns out I am not alone in this feeling and they even have a name for it: impostor syndrome or the “psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.” It means that feeling like a phony, a fake, a charlatan, is perfectly normal.
Earlier this year the EMP asked me to be apart of a one night only panel of experts on different areas of the Lego community. I was billed as the “expert” Lego photographer. I laughed and told people I was an “expert in my field” (complete with air quotes). But little did I realize that maybe I am an expert in my field. Ok, I will admit it’s a very small field, one that has just a handful of participants. But hey, I am an expert! If the EMP called me one, I must be one! I’m going to go out on a limb and call Me2 an expert too. (I hope he doesn’t mind.)
Which leads me to the most important question: Are you an artist? Are you an expert in toy photography? If so, let me know. Let’s be experts together, we can fake it until we all make it…together.
As I wait for me2 to recover from his latest secret mission I have been struggling to find interesting topics to write about. This blogging business is not easy.
As I have been casting about looking for topics, a particular book title kept popping into my head: Steal Like an Artist. This little book made its way into our house a couple of years ago and even though it has an awesome title I never read it. In my desperation for a blogging topic I tracked it down and cracked it open. Eureka!
With chapter topics like: “Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started” and “Side projects and hobbies are important” this book was speaking my language.
The first chapter alone is worth the price of admission. Somehow the author makes over used nuggets like “Nothing is Original” and “Garbage in Garbage Out” seems fresh and original. My favorite quote he chose to illustrate this chapter was by Jim Jarmusch.
“Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be a authentic.”
In the world of toy photography where everything is emulated and much is passed around without attribution, it’s important to note that by using the world “steal” the author is encouraging you to be inspired by everything you see, but don’t plagiarize.
Unless me2 suddenly shows up, I’ll talk about some of my other favorite chapters later this week. Stay tuned!
Homage to Robert Mapplethorpe
One thing I learned while I was getting my BFA in Photography was that I am really bad at black and white photography. Color is my medium. And if you don’t believe me check out my pre Lego work here.
One of the first apps I looked for after a good basic editing app for my iPhone/iPad was a good black and white photo editor. I was thrilled when I discovered Noir Photo. This little single use photo app is great for quickly creating dramatic black and white photos. It has an easy to use interface that lets you quickly turn your photos from this
So if you are looking to branch out with your photography and want to try to creating some dramatic black & white photos, might I suggest you give Noir Photo or Dramatic Black & White (another good black & white editor) a try. If you are like me and are black & white challenged, an app like this will fool people into thinking you know what you are doing. And isn’t that what it is all about, faking it?
Weird things happen when Me2 disappears into one of his top secret assignments. I tend to go off topic…like now.
“The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Any fame is a by-product of making something that means something. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.” – Banksy
This quote was included in the comments in one of my previous post by the talented @mister_bricks. He altered the quote slightly by replacing “fame” with “likes”. This quote resonated with me and I felt it was appropriate to revisit the topic “Is Their Life Beyond Instagram?”.
I’ll be clear, I’m not looking for likes for my photos. I create them for my own pleasure. I enjoy the Instagram community that has nurtured and inspired me for the last two years. But posting pictures on Instagram can only be satisfying for so long.
I believe that one of our goals here at Stuckinplastic is to unite like minded photographers who would like to take their toy photography to a new level. Specifically, showing them in real life. This could include displaying them at a cafe in your neighborhood, creating a pop up art gallery or some version of gorilla street art a la Banksy. Whatever or wherever our imaginations take us is fine by me.
Let’s storm the gates, let’s create an art movement, let’s rejoice in the fact that we are brothers in arms that just happen to be stuck in plastic!