Why? – by Chris Rose

When I was invited by Shelly to write this ‘why?’ piece, I felt privileged but I also felt a sense of trepidation. I was reminded of being an 18 year old art student and when I was asked to explain the meaning behind a piece of work by a tutor. I managed to chat away about religious symbolism and that seemed to go down quite well. However, I also thought that meaning could be very personal to an individual. It can be interpreted differently by the artist or viewer, but each idea is equally valid. Continue reading Why? – by Chris Rose

Why? By Isaac Renteria

How I started in toy photography is a bit long story; from my early years I remember art as one of the most important things in my (and my family’s) life due to my fathers work; he’s a painter, sculptor and interior designer. So I started to be interested in the arts at a very young age. Continue reading Why? By Isaac Renteria

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

Why?

Why?

  1. adverb

    for what reason, purpose, or cause?:
    “Tell me why are you’re here?”

  1. pronoun

    for or because of which:
    “There is no reason why he shouldn’t”.

  1. interjection

    an introductory expression of surprise, disagreement, indignation, etc.:
    “Why, don’t be so silly!”

Let me premise this by saying that I’m not a photographer. Heck, I don’t even own a real camera. I’m just a knucklehead with an iPhone!

Continue reading Why?

The “Why?” Statement – guidelines

Recently I have been reaching out to photographers I admire and asking them to write for our “Why?” series. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, but once these talented photographers start trying to express the obvious in words, they tend to get bogged down.

Today I thought I would try to explain why this statement is important and try to help bring some clarification to the process. Continue reading The “Why?” Statement – guidelines

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, …