SIP 16 – Flexibility

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“My Doctor asked me how flexible I was. I said, “I can’t do next Tuesday”” – Tommy Cooper

This week’s Stuck In Plastic 52 week challenge is Flexibility.  Whilst the above quote is more about the subject matter, the focus that I had for this week was the challenge from the medium itself – that of flexibility in the toy itself.

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Nendroids can enable you to swap faces and some of the positions, but in the main they are relatively static.  The bunny suit on the right enables you to store two Nendroid heads.

Some toys offer very little flexibility and mobility – and I suspect that may be the first issue here.

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Lego figures, with the exception of the characters above, are in the main fairly inflexble, with only single arcs of movement (legs go front to back, arms swing front to back, head swivels side to side etc). But they do allow for parts swappage – so I can change the head, hair, body as I need.  The Technic figure has a lot more inbuilt movement – the common phrase here is “hyper mobility”.

There are three courses of action to the Lego toyphotographer – either go non-standard, go non-purist, or get creative.

Going Non-Standard is simply about using other toys which work with the world’s favourite interlocking brick construction system, or using custom parts.  Megabloks for example has the franchise on Minion figures – which do offer a lot more three dimensional movement:

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Minions can’t handle Banana beer.

A while back there was a Kickstarter campaign to introduce an additional range of arm positions that was compatible with Lego.  This of course, starts to move us towards non-purist photography, but does offer the appearance of more flexibility.  The other aspect of non-purist is to introduce flexibility by dislocating and pulling apart the figure, then using something like BlueTack to hold the limbs in their very non-standard position.

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Whoop ’em- Gangnam style!!  Both arms are custom, the right leg has been removed and stuck in the raised position.

This approach does offer a lot more flexibility and mobility into the overall image.

The final approach is that of creative photography – working within the medium. For that I’ve presented two images.  The first – the boxers – is working within the medium to make the losing boxer… well, lose his head.

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The second image is careful camera angles.  Here, the policeman can either smell something bad, or has seen something stupid.  A wider context obviously helps here – and that in itself should be the cornerstone of a good image; what is the story in the picture?

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So there you have it – flexibility.  I realised as I was writing this that I have really focused on mobility, but as that’s not in the 52 week challenge I carried on regardless.  And my favourite image must be the dancer – although I’m quite happy with the Tommy Cooper quote too!

Next week is “Integrity”.  A challenging word for Toy photography, that’s for sure.  See you next week!


SIP 15 – Respect

Back in 2013 I republished some vignettes I had made on the Scout Law (“Scout Law in Lego Form” – see above) so I had made the initial thought that this could be an easy one. I guess to some extent I was right about that – although my thinking was rather skewed by having Aretha Franklin’s 1967 hit song “Respect” going round my head.

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Find out what it means to me

I had to try and capture that image – and fortunately both Friends and Batman now have a more multicultural approach to their people, so it was a little less of a challenge to find the right character.   Side bar note – Aretha doesn’t sing “R E S P E C T, take out the TCP” as I had originally thought (I did wonder if this was a song about abuse at one point, TCP being a medicinal disinfectant in the UK) but actually sings “Take Care, TCB” – which was a popular acronym at the time for “Taking Care of Business”.

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It’s all I’m asking.

But respect is more than just a really cool song.  In my Scouting collection, the respect image is right at the bottom – and as I noted, much as I could take about respect for one’s own health and self, respect has a far wider reach.  Whether that is your choice of faith or belief:

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In today’s society I believe we have evolved to understand that there may be more than one view on faith, religion and what God might look like. 

Or indeed is your respect for the works that may be going on in the world by companies finding locations to drill, extract and transport the fuels that we depend on:

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Protest! Sadly Lego don’t make protest signs.  I suspect Lord Business owns the printing firms.

I think respect ultimately comes down to a tolerance and an understanding by everyone.  We all have an impact on our society and depending on our views, perceptions and beliefs our respect for each other will be shaped accordingly.

So this week I have two favourite images – the second, more cropped version of Aretha above, and this one below.  Ultimately my thinking on respect was that respect is now a global concern and without it we are likely to take ourselves back into the past.

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Next week’s challenge is flexibility – I’ll see if my diary will allow me to fit it in!


All images taken using a Samsung S7 Edge phone using a Foldio Lightbox and a black background sheet.  Image editing (cropping, filters) in Google Picasa.

SIP 14 – Joy

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The Stuck in Plastic’s “52 weeks, 52 words” (#SIPGoes52) continues this week with another challenging emotive word – that of Joy.   I know that last week I said I wouldn’t delve into the world of the film “Inside Out” however I’m going to fail and mention it straight at the start

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Amazon and eBay bring me packets of Joy all the time…

In the film, there are supposed to be five basic emotions – joy, sadness, anger, fear, disgust.  Joy is shown as a single positive characteristic and the rest all providing a support role to balance that one emotion.  So Joy encompasses happiness, contentment, peace, love, optimism and mindfulness – all quite complex emotions in their own right.  So if “joy” is such a complex subject, how can this be distilled into one or two images?

In order to respond to this week’s challenge, I decided to look at what joy meant to me personally, rather than what it might mean to someone else, or even what the dictionary definition may describe as.  I decided that the question for the week was this:

–          What brings me Joy?

This question made the answer a far simpler one to answer in a few images.  Much as I do (mostly) enjoy my work, it doesn’t define me and there are plenty of things that can and will occupy my time – indeed, take over my spare time if left unchecked!  One such interest is going for a run – my pace is now much slower than it was thirty (*cough*) years ago and the distance I cover is now shorter – but I have learned to stop and smell the roses and take in the scenery just a little more (and sometimes I combine the two)

Kidrobot Observation Drone at the Italian Gardens, Hyde Park, London

But I think my Joy is best encapsulated through two images: the one at the head of this article, and the one below.  I’m not sure when I started collecting designer vinyl figures for photography, but it has fast become the other space consumer in my office (Lego being the front runner).  This is quite a broad subject matter, with all manner of figures and characters occupying desk space.  The Kidrobot dunny, Observation Drone, is currently a favourite for taking “on location” as some of the images has shown.

My second thing that brings me joy is my drawing and art.  Again, a relatively new resurgence,  this is the other thing that takes up huge amounts of suitcase space in my suitcase each week; with daily challenges I enjoy the spontenaity and pleasure that I am deriving from this – which is why the mini-me has a notebook for all the doodles and drawings.  But whilst it does bring me joy to create the image, the final joy is that ubiquitous “like” when shared on social media – which for photography is pretty much Instagram, but a select number also find their way onto Facebook, DeviantArt, Vero, and of course this blog. And that’s the image below; mini me, with his notebook, pen and camera, getting that all-important first like.

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Next week: Aretha Franklin’s pet subject, R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  Kids, ask your parents or just go ahead and Spotify it.

SIP 13 – Passion

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My initial thought for this week’s Stuck in Plastic challenge was to head straight down the most obvious route for passion – being covered in lipstick kisses.  But passion has more than one route to be explored – you only have to consider the passion that lies in Flamenco dancing, or in the Bolero, to know that sometimes passion is the smouldering, simmering emotion that sits below the surface.

But passion isn’t just about something that happens between two people – and this was the avenue of exploration that I decided to take. For me (at least) passion is a byword for the enthusiasm that is pursued in a hobby or interest.  At the moment for me this is two things – toy photography and drawing; and often the two are combined when I buy a designer vinyl figure, or photograph a Lego figure against a drawing that I have created.

And it is this passion that I have chosen to reflect in my picture for this weeks’ challenge:

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The image is of the artist, frantically completing his next masterpiece (at least, that’s what he thinks it will be), with his pile of previous works piled behind him.

As  a couple of notes on the construction of this image – the “floor” is a postcard that I (try to) use between the sheets of  my notebook to stop the Copic pens from bleeding through as I colour in the image (an example of the drawing is the background behind the artist). The coloured-in Aquaman (and the line version at the top of the pile) were bought through; the “art” tile and the figure’s torso and legs were produced by and are based on designs that I supplied (check out the Doodlefig and Doodletile links on the Minifigs website.)


Next week’s challenge is “Joy”… I’ll try to not reference Inside Out!

SIP 12 – Friendship

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For this week’s challenge I wanted to avoid using what I thought was a well used approach of two figures walking off together to do something – possibly holding a basket with an egg in it. I wanted to avoid that because I knew I wouldn’t be getting outside any time soon, and didn’t want to just create something that I felt I might want to use at another time.

But I did recall the college reunion that I had gone to recently – where 30 years had passed since we all last met up together; it was this that I wanted to explore.  The moment when the younger us first met, that thing that happened that we still talk about, and the us today.  And all that in one picture – the one above.

I’m pleased that the Lego minifigure has evolved so much over the years – especially with the balding hair piece 🙂  Of course I had to keep one figures face “the same” because for some they never seem to age even though they do!

I haven’t taken many pictures that stand alone that aren’t in the image above… but you can bet that in any group one person will still have the picture (or traffic cone, road sign or just the thing) that brings back all the memories again…

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Next week’s challenge is passion… this could get messy!!!

SIP 11 – Nostalgia

A thought struck me with this week’s challenge: Nostalgia isn’t as good as it used to be.

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My submission this week is the above image.  It recreates the nostalgia from when I first started building with Lego, using the pre-articulated minifigures from my collection (that is, boxes of Lego).  I even found an original car grill and windscreen – again, not difficult as they are in the trays that I use today.  Which I guess begs the question: is this nostalgic if I use things that are still being used?

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Lego celebrates 60 years this year and there are a number of sets which now carry the special birthday tile.  They’ve even re-introduced the “classic” minifigure (although my own small collection of figures would suggest that there have been many other figures that were classic, such as “hands in their pockets people” but I guess they don’t have the flexibility and size of the now standard).

As the group running this challenge is focused on Lego (hence the Stuck In Plastic name) I didn’t feel like I could divert away from Lego – which wasn’t hard, but from a nostalgic view was a limitation.

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You see, being the age I am and the type of person I am I still have toys that I had growing up (apart from the Lego of course), such as these cars.  I was never one to think “Oh I must hang onto this and make sure that it remains perfect for resale” (which is still something I don’t do… it comes out of the box and is used). and with a TV diet of Smokey and the Bandit, Dukes of Hazzard, the A-team and James Bond these cars have leapt across ravines; crashed down mountain sides, fallen into watery dooms and got thoroughly bogged down in the mud (and all from the geographic location of my house).  They earned those dings!

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Having said I never take things out of their boxes – I did see that this is an exception!  For a collector magazine, they have started to reproduce toys that pre-date me, such as this model of a Bedford van.  Originally I’d bought it with the intention of passing it on as a gift but as it’s a modern reproduction rather than an original I decided to just hang onto it myself.  Nostalgic perhaps, old and valuable – no.


I posed the question earlier about my submission piece – and whether the fact that I was still using old parts today meant that the image couldn’t be considered nostalgic.  For me, this was a rhetorical question – pretty much all the parts are over 30 years old, the building style is as it was, SNOT (Studs Not On Top) wasn’t a building technique it was stuff that came from my nose, and there was never enough bits to quite do what you wanted – so you would improvise a little (for example, build a chimney at the end or have a weird bit at the top… 🙂 ).  I’ve also managed to get the photographic style back to the ’70s too which I’m quite pleased about.

For anyone with their “geeky” head on, yes I know there are parts that are no inkeeping – the windows and doors are modern by comparison.  Below are some of the original windows of varying ages.  The red door is fixed, but the white door came in around the same time as the minifigure we know today (so they could actually go in and out of their buildings… hand-in-their-pockets people could never get into the houses and cars they owned and I suspect they couldn’t fit in them either.  Plus of course, even if they could have got into the car, they’d never be able to see out until years later when the windscreens started to become more transparent – as can be seen from the three screens below!

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Next week – Friendship.

SIP 10 – Recognition

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“Mummy – look; that lady has red hair!!”

Recognition.  Such a simple, straighforward word… isn’t it? And yet I think I’ve once again found a number of examples where it’s not straightforward.  So the first – and possibly the most obvious – is personal reward:

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I’m a keen “virtual runner” – a relatively new concept where you sign up to complete a distance (for example 5k) and then in your own time, at your own pace and location you complete the distance.  You send in proof and they send you the medal.  It means that your weekend isn’t necessarily impacted by driving somewhere for an 0900 start.  In the picture the two Lego blocks come from virtual runs for Fairy Bricks; the Nightmare 5K medal glows in the dark!!

So this form of recognition is a personal one.  The natural extension of this is when you are nominated for a reward based on your behaviours and contributions.

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Lego’s ideas range is fan developed art. Anyone can submit an idea, and if it gets enough votes Lego will then review it – and if it is something they want to progress it will become a limited edition production.  I had great fun yesterday building the Ship in a Bottle – originally designed by Jake Sadovich and then turned into the final set by Tiago Catarino.

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Before I explain the first image – and the one that I think best encompasses the seed of recognition – this week I received some vinyl toys that I think also come under this banner.  I was looking at Pinterest at Vinyl toys (ideas, new shopping opportunities) and saw these really cool Droplets.  A quick google and they were bought.

What was really cool – and to me worthy of recognition – was that firstly they are relatively local (the designer and the company are from Bristol, about 60 miles up the road) unlike many of the more international items I have (Donutella is American for example). Secondly, the designer Gavin Strange is also a senior designer for Aardman Animations – and so whilst this isn’t an Aardman product per se, the connection (and therefore the recognition) is pretty awesome.


So finally, the choice of the week – a personal, fun one. For a number of years my wife has gone for a bright red hair colour – something that is very striking and she gets a lot of compliments from people in shops.  But one thing that always amuses her (and me) is the unguarded responses from small children with their parents and grandparents – and the reaction from the adults who aren’t sure what to say/do next…


Next week: Nostalgia.  Time to break out the old toys…