My name is Alvaro Iparraguirre. I am 46 years old, and I have been a photographer for 25 years. Currently, I work in a photography production company, and I have worked in newspapers, magazines, companies, and events. I’ve travelled to over 30 countries taking documentary photo. I have 5 children and I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In March of 2020 I started to take photos of some Playmobile that I collected, although I had very few, and since I could no longer work due to the pandemic, I did not have money to buy materials. Then I started to collect things from the street, Sand, wood, Styrofoam, wires, all things that people threw away, they served to make dioramas.
For my ideas, I think of movie scenes, although my biggest inspiration is the light I use, which I take from paintings, mainly from romanticism painters.
Since I was a kid, I played with Playmobil, that’s why I feel love toward these toys. It is very easy for me to make scenes with them. I look at them when I’m putting the scenes and I love them.
Many photographers are influenced, although perhaps, in the paintings I look for the inspiration to be able to recreate environments and atmospheres. I think it’s good to learn from photographers who don’t work with toys, ideas and forms that one can take to the scenes with toys.
Gear & Essential Tools
I use Nikon cameras, generally Nikon D3s and D3. My lenses are 24, 28, 50, 85, 28-70 2.8, and 70-200 2.8 vr. But I use the 50mm 1.4 for most of the photos. Usually, I mix flashes and (many) continuous lights.
I take all my photos inside and usually at night, so I can control all the light. Although some photos of boats were taken in a pool, at the last hour of the day, turning off the daylight with the exposure and adding lights with the flashes.
My non photographic tools are essential. Wires, fabrics, cardboard, papers, are used to modify and direct the light, as well as small lights. The best accessory I used was a plastic coke bottle, spray painted gold, which generated a dramatic and very painting-like light.
I don’t use any post-take process. I don’t use photoshop or lightroom for processing photos. Everything you see, that’s how I have taken the shot, and this is for several reasons. Mainly because I never learned to use those programs, although I use them in very basic ways. Second, because it is more fun for me to work on the effects and the color in the moment, I take the photo.
I like that people see a real scene, based on toys, like I dreamed as a child when I played. That the Playmobil are real.
The best that you can have for a photo is patience. Infinite patience. If a photo takes 2 hours or 15 days, you have to have the time to be able to take it, without losing motivation.
A few months ago, I chose a photograph from the year 1974 from a catalogue of Playmobil, and I decided to reproduce it exactly. Soon I realized that all I needed was time and patience, lots of time and patience. As I progressed, I was sending a photographer friend the photos and he helped correct me. It was very helpful to have another person look at it to do retakes.
I would tell someone who is starting that if they don’t love what they are doing, start over. Even if it takes time, and even if it is frustrating, try many times until they are really satisfied.
For the 50 years of Playmobil, I am working on the adaptation of classic images, but with my own look.
I think digital tools made a lot of things easier, but they also made the creative process shorter and simpler. And in the process of building an image, we need time for ideas and proposals to emerge. At least for me that is what is exciting, a process with the Playmobil.
You can check out more of Alvaro’s amazing work at Instagram: playmobile.strobist
And don’t forget to check out other wonderful photographers who’ve already participated in our Feature Friday showcase.