Requiem For Esteem

Finding Inspiration In Words, Again

I recently had to leave town for work. After packing my bags (including the now mandatory for any journey off the property, LEGO minifigures), I grabbed a book from our bookshelves (I’d just finished the latest BricksCulture magazine cover to cover) for the plane flight and the few days away.

This was a random selection. The colour of the spine stood out amongst the other books it was buried amongst. The size of it was convenient for travel. It was within arm’s reach. Or so I thought.

Upon settling into my seat on the plane, I opened the book to begin reading, after I’d dutifully payed attention to the safety demonstration of course! The book in my hands was Hubert Selby Jr.’s Requiem For A Dream.

Hubert “Cubby” Selby Jr. (1928-2004) is one of my favourite authors. And Requiem For A Dream (1978) is one of my favourite books.

Harry Goldfarb
“This is our only chance to make it big.” – Harry Goldfarb

Yet, this isn’t a literary blog, it’s a toy photography blog. So how does this seemingly random grab for a book as I left for the airport relate to toy photography?


“Being an artist doesn’t take much, just everything you got.”
– Hubert Selby Jr.

As I type this, I have three draft posts that I’m struggling to finish. I have an impending exhibition that has thrown a few curve-balls my way of late, zapping my motivation. I’ve been ill, thanks to my smalls’ deciding to share their colds with me before I left for the conference, just in case I forgot to miss them. I’ve found myself straining to find the drive to photograph LEGO.

And this is where this book, and it’s author, has rekindled that inspiration.

Selby had no formal training as a writer.

“I knew the alphabet. Maybe I could be a writer.”
– Hubert Selby Jr.

Yet he is considered highly influential to more than a generation of writers, and went on to teach creative writing as an adjunct professor in the Master of Professional Writing program at the University of Southern California.

Selby broke the rules of what was expected from a writer. With little concern for proper grammar or punctuation, he used unorthodox techniques in most of his works. He indented his paragraphs with alternating lengths. He replaced apostrophes with forward slashes. . He did not use quotation marks.

“Everything about it was wrong. That’s why it worked so good.”
– Hubert Selby Jr.

Sara Goldfarb
“Harold, I’m gonna be on Television!” – Sara Goldfarb

So, if this untrained man can launch himself into a chosen field and succeed, can’t we do the same with toy photography? After all, who here has had formal training in how to take photos of plastic? If this man, who broke all the rules of what was expected, went on to be a respected author amongst his peers, couldn’t we break the rules of what photography, and even toy photography, is expected to be? And, if he then when on to teach others what he’d learned, can’t we do the same and share what we’ve discovered along the way?

“Writing, like any art, is a continuing process of discovering the infinite possibilities of life. A blank piece of paper can be terrifying. It can also be exciting when ideas, images and sounds come together and sing off the page.”
– Hubert Selby Jr.

Yes, Hubert, yes we can.

Thank you Cubby.


  1. aliceincleveland

    There is a lot of good advice here in finding and staying inspired. Artist should dive into all types of art and not just their own. A photographer should look at more than just photos, a painter should look at more than just paintings and on and on.

    I don’t know that I can get behind someone with no knowledge of photography becoming Hubert level famous. I think they could definitely become pretty popular in a local community (even if local means an online monster like IG) but I think given the short attention span the world has natural creative talent will only go so far.

    Eventually that person is going to need to learn the technical things that amplify creativity into photos that the viewer can’t look away from. Photography and writing are too different to allow for the same kind of ‘rags to riches’ success that people like Hubert and JK Rowling enjoyed.

    Though, I could just not know about them. Are they out there?

    • Thanks for your reply.
      Perhaps the main point of this post was lost in my ramblings? I was, as you mention, alluding to finding inspiration beyond what we do, yet fame and riches weren’t what I was referring to. As Cubby wrote in Requiem For A Dream, “But to believe that getting stuff is the purpose and aim of life is madness”.
      However, I’d argue that Stuck In Plastic’s call for submissions for their latest and upcoming BricksCulture articles do indeed give success and respect, and perhaps some level of fame, to LEGO photographers that perhaps have have no formal photography or art training. Indeed, these featured photographers would have honed their skills by learning, as I suspect Hubert would have through reading.

      • aliceincleveland

        In the many forms they come in, I’ve always viewed the benefits of hanging around the SIP community to be a motivation to go out and capture and then a dedicated place to think about those captures. The fortune and glory… Those will just follow naturally. : )

        I do think it’s kind of ironic though, the quote, “But to believe that getting stuff is the purpose and aim of life is madness”. Because aren’t we all here looking for a higher purpose and aim in our actions that revolves around plastic stuff?

        • Ahh, the ambiguity of the term ‘stuff’! Yep, I too am looking to expand, improve and find purpose pertaining to the ‘stuff’ I do with plastic ‘stuff’. The reference was more relating to your mentions of fame and riches, which are two ‘stuffs’ that, albethey attractive in supporting my plastic addiction, aren’t ‘stuffs’ I’d pondered during my plastic pilgrimage.

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