Recently I traveled across the globe to attend the Melbourne Toy Photo Meet-Up hosted by Brett Wilson and the Toy Photographers blog. I thought I should take a moment and report back on the events. Spoiler alert: it was fabulous!
Cow Up a Tree
I’ve put on a few of these photo meet-ups myself over the years, so I knew what to expect. I didn’t pack a lot of toys knowing I could find some fun toys in everyone else’s toy boxes. My plan worked perfectly. Whenever I got bored with my own toys, I simply reached into the nearest toy box for inspiration.
The day started at a relatively lazy 10am at the Cow Up a Tree sculpture in the Docklands area of Melbourne. Brett chose a fabulous location to start because there was a variety of scenery to amuse ourselves (grass, cement seating and iconic sculpture, plus water and puddles from the recent rain). There was even a coffee shop for those who needed to get warm or a quick caffeine pick-me-up (me!).
After a brief welcome, where we honored the Aboriginal peoples whose land we were standing on, we shared a round of introductions, handing out our generous swag bags which included a Krashes_Kustoms figure. Then everyone quickly got to work. I could see multiple collaborations being pulled together and plenty of behind-the-scenes photos taken.
My good internet friend Richard (The Rambling Brick) brought along a piece of blue bubble wrap. The idea behind the bubble wrap was to use it to simulate water if none was available at the Docklands. He challenged me to create an image using his bubble wrap…challenge happily accepted.
I have no idea how long we were at our first stop because I wasn’t in charge (woo hoo!). Brett, the consummate planner and host, created a detailed itinerary and gave it to everyone, but somehow I missed the memo. Luckily the group was large enough and I was swept up when everyone moved to the next location.
Our next stop was the Docklands Park; an urban, green oasis of dry river beds, a mini forest and seed pod “boats.” If you see a lot of behind-the-scenes photos of toy photographers lying down in a forest of skinny trees, this is where we are.
On first glance, this location didn’t seem very interesting. (Not to mention we were getting some serious side eye from a woman who was using one of the public grills to make her lunch.) But once you got on the ground and looked through a viewfinder, it was easy to see why Brett chose this location. The light was amazing!
The generous folks at Atmosphere Aerosol donated a case of canned smoke for us to play with. Everyone was getting into the spirit, and the trees were filled with smoke. Toy photographers where pairing up and helping each other get those properly atmospheric photos.
Soon breakfast was a distant memory and my stomach was rumbling. I don’t know about you, but toy photography is hard work!
As a group we meandered toward the central business district by way of a cool footbridge across the Yarra River. Soon we came to the Crown Casino which happened to have a food court. There was something to please everyone here.
Our timing couldn’t have been better because soon the heavens opened up and the rain poured down. I had a pleasant lunch in the company of Janan, Joe, Sunny, Vince, Sze Sze and Richard.
Southbank Promenade is a busy pedestrian walkway between the Yarra River and a row of shops and restaurants. It might have been busy, but there were new, enticing puddles everywhere after the recent rain. I’m not sure who challenged me to take a photo…but I never back down from a good challenge!
Someone was even kind enough to add some smoke effects to minimize the city in the background. I love a great group effort!
With my photo finally captured, I headed off to join the main group who’d meandered ahead. Our next stop was the mythical Hosier Lane. I’ve seen this graffiti-covered alley in the backgrounds of toy photos for about as long as I’ve been on Instagram. To be able to finally play in this location was exhilarating; I almost felt like I was on hallowed ground. How can I compete with all the amazing photos that have come before? Talk about intimidation!
Because Hosier Lane is a popular tourist destination, we knew it would be a busy location. Luckily this didn’t stop anyone from getting out their toys and getting to work. What I didn’t anticipate was how the other tourists got in on the action. Multiple attendees reported that their setups were being photographed by excited tourists.
We gave a lot of stickers in the swag bags for meet-up attendees. It was fun to see so many of them migrate to the walls of Hosier Lane.
Unfortunately the rain started up again and cut short our trip to AC / DC Lane and the opportunity for more graffiti + toy imagery.
Who doesn’t love a burger and a beer after a day of toy photography fun? Brett had arranged in advance to reserve several tables for us at Burger Bar in Federation Square, across the street from Hosier Lane. The thinking had been to have dinner and then to head back out to capture photos as the sun went down. Oh, the best laid plans….
We arranged a bunch of tables in an ad hoc group and got down to the serious business of socializing and getting those last few images uploaded before the contests were closed.
Food was eaten, beer was drunk, images exchanged and a group Sig Fig photo was taken. Everyone was more interested in talking, socializing and generally chilling out than going out and taking more photos. Honestly, I think these meet-ups are a nice chance to take photos, but talking shop with like minded folks is so much more fun!
I’m so happy that 10 months ago I decided to travel to Australia because I had the time of my life! Sure, there were a few disappointments, but that just means I have to go back. A truly special “thank you” to Sunny and Vince who traveled all the way from Singapore to join me and the Melbourne folks for this epic weekend!
Meeting and hanging out with the Melbourne toy photography community was a real pleasure; not only to meet new friends, but gain longtime friends, too. After all these years I was able to share a tinny with Franco (LLWorld) who I started BrickCentral with way back when we where both young. I was able to meet Sean (The LEGO News) and his beautiful son and wife, too! These are some of my longest friendships on Instagram and it was great to see them and give them all a hug. <3
Of course seeing iconic sights like Hosier Lane and Federation Square (where my work was seen several years ago through a relationship with CheapJokes) in-person was super cool. Chatting and photographing with people I’ve only known online, like Richard (The Rambling Brick) and Janan (spideygoeshygge), was frankly mind blowing. :0
So many other moments on this trip (both big and small) make me grateful I spent the time, money and credit card points on this mega adventure. As I continue to get older, the realization that life is finite gets more obvious with each passing day. Before my life thread is cut by the Fates, I’m going to make the most of it.
Put the social back in social media.
I realize that I’m privileged to be able to go on this amazing journey, but you don’t have to travel 13,174 km to have an epic adventure. You can create a similar experience in your own city! Its never too late to start having fun with like-minded folks. Don’t be discouraged if only a couple of toy photographers attend your first meet-up. We all started with only a few intrepid first attendees. In my experience, quantity is never a guarantee of a fabulous time.
So let’s all try to put the social back in social media. I challenge you to host a photo meet-up in your city and invite your friends. If you build it, they will come.