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…

SIP 9 – Community

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Community.  Quite an interesting word – and for me, both exclusive and inclusive in equal measure – which meant it was quite a challenge not to let politics get into these photographs.   A quick Google shows me that there are two meanings for community:

  1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common (the example they used is Montreal’s Italian community)
  2. the condition of sharing or having certain interests or attitudes in common.

The challenge I had with this was not dragging out the soapbox in regard to some of the more negative aspects of the word community – and yet, I feel that I need to at least explain why I thought communities could be exclusive.  So as a small deviation, I do feel like a tourist in my own country when I head through areas heavily populated by one particular community group, where the signs in non-English far outweigh any in English, making me feel uncomfortable.  And yet, I know that this feeling is very much the reason why these communities became like that when many of these groups first came to the UK.  I know that there may be more integration than ever before, but I still think that these groups are becoming tighter to “hang on” to their cultures and values.

But I tried to remain and stay positive about this – and fortunately these ten minifigures proved to be a perfect example of a community, because they share the same characteristic (they were sold as glued figures, so they can’t be mixed and matched with other figures) and they share the same interests (space travel).  They live in the same place (where I keep all my minifigures) … I can’t vouch that they share the same attitudes, but they do all have the same facial expression.  For those interested, these are M:Tron minifigures and were produced between 1991 and 1993.

The next three images were created for the purposes of this week’s challenge – and for me, I think whilst the message in all three are clear, I think I like the first image the most.

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It’s important to support your local community
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Communities develop by talking with others to find the common ground of understanding
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A successful community is one that allows itself to grow and develop.


Next week: recognition.  Should be fun!


SIP 8 – Bravery

After last week’s “Spirituality“, I was looking forward to think about this week’s challenge – that of bravery. I considered what we meant when we said that someone was brave – and what situations that might be an appropriate response.  The first image that came to mind was the firefighters – who will often be required to enter structures that might be on the verge of being unsafe (at least, when I got out from my own house the firemen were there in the house when it was too hot and smokey for us).  And whilst I think that is a good definition of bravery, and certainly from a personal perspective I’m pleased that there are people prepared to do that, I wasn’t quite sure that it was the angle I wanted to take for this week.


Plus, I thought that just running into burning buildings wasn’t something I wanted to do.

My next thoughts I think really covered the elements that I wanted to focus on for the subject of bravery – that element of facing a personal challenge or fear. It may be that we decide to say “f**k it” and tell the world about what makes us tick – whether that is enjoying drawing cute pandas, cats and bunnys, whether that is about our sexual orientation, or even that we just feel comfortable dressing in a particular way that might be considered different from societal norms (heck, even deciding to actually dye your hair blond for the heck of it) actually just saying that this is what I like doing can be quite a brave thing to do.


But from that thought, I also considered the internal battle that many of us have, just being ourselves.  By that, the fear that we may hold within ourselves of how good we actually are – that thought in the back of the head that says “you can’t draw”,  “you can’t run”, “you’re just rubbish at everything”.  In this case, it isn’t about freeing ourselves from how we feel we might be perceived from other people, but instead it’s about freeing ourselves from how we perceive ourself and having the confidence to go “actually, I will have a go at drawing” and – irrespective of what we produce (remember all art is subjective) – actually just being proud that we went and did it.  This is, to some extent, the first step before we start to be who we want to be.


My image for this week, to pick just one from the selection, is the next one; facing our fears.  Whether that is accepting who we are for ourselves, presenting that accepted self to the world – and even then running headlong into the scary world (yup, the analogy which is the burning building), the first step is building that confidence to do something about it.  That very scary first step.

To show that image, I deliberately chose the small Lego child legs, rather than the more articulate “adult” Lego legs.  The fact that the child has a Teddy Bear and a toy sword highlights their mental self taking control and bravely facing the fears, the bear providing a moral support to beating whatever it is they are facing off in battle.  I tried to remain vague about whether the child is a boy or a girl as I think this fact is irrelevant; it could be someone might attach importance to the fact that the bear is pink in colour – but actually a) it was the first one I found (borrowed from the girl in the earlier picture) and b) see an earlier comment about liking drawing cute bunnies 🙂


So, when you think of Bravery, what comes to your mind?

Next week: Community.



SIP 7 – Spirituality

This week’s challenge word is Spirituality. This is quite a challenging subject matter to translate into toy photography as it is something where it is easier to say what it isn’t than what it is; although some of what we might say it isn’t forms part of what it is. Confused?

As a summary then, Spirituality is more of a “be” than an “is”. You can be a spiritual person, but religion and meditation isn’t (but it is). By that, you can find a spiritual centre through a religion, or a meditation or yoga but just performing Down Dog or Push Hands doesn’t mean you are a spiritual person. Similarly you can be all over spirituality today, but tomorrow…

My image attempts to convey spirituality… and yes, I realise that it does and doesn’t in equal measure. I deliberately chose the atypical happy resting face of the Lego figure – simple, calm and peaceful. I’ve posed him in a seated, sort of lotus position to reflect that comfortable, accepting pose that comes from meditation. The flare point from the forehead is where the Third Eye is located, referencing the ascendance to a peaceful, accepting, spiritual life. The heart mask on the image, plus the outer frame, further reinforces the message – that of accepting things as is without attachment, perception or bias – just a love for everything and everyone.

Next week: bravery

(This is week 7 of a 52-week challenge by For more information, and other really cool toy photography, go there and check it out!)


They hung up on me! (All)

“… but I’m sure they’ll phone back if they wanted to.”

Bodykun model, editing in Picsart (crop, multiple filters)


SIP 6 – Emotion

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If I could only pick one… I think this one shows all manner of emotions!

This week’s photo challenge was the subject of emotion.  I tried to think about all the things that this could cover – specifically focusing on the world of toy photography.  I think that this comes under three main subject areas:

  • Memories from toys
  • Conveyed emotions through toys
  • Perceived emotions

Memories from toys

I have quite a few toys from my childhood – and more recently toys from the new “rebooted” version of something I grew up with.  Finally, there are a couple of toys which due to circumstances now have a memory attached to them.

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The toy car is one of the first areas – although this one is not from my childhood (although I always wanted one… so I was happy when this was passed onto me).  The collection of Lego figures falls into the first and second categories – some of these are from my childhood (I have figures in this collection dating back to 1978) and some I have managed to get more recently to complete a collection of figures.

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The Danger Mouse figure is from the recent rebooted series.  I recall the original series back in the 1980’s – with David Jason and Terry Scott voicing DM and Penfold and the very sharp writing of Cosgrove Hall producing a level of imaginative humour that I’m sure has stayed with me (well, that an Agaton Sax, but that’s for another time).  I do like the recent version of the series, but somehow, the original is better.

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Finally, the memory from recent circumstances.  Last year our house was struck by lightning – and the smoke and fire damage took most of the year to fix.  Whilst much of the contents of the office were cleaned, one plush figure – Blurb – could not be cleaned and was to be written off. The fact that he has a lightning bolt on it’s chest, and that he is now smoke damaged, makes the memories obvious.

In these situations, the memories don’t necessarily come from playing with them, but with a more distanced engagement.

Conveyed emotions through toys

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Compare these two with the earlier photos and you can certainly see more emotion in these mini figures.  Even just eyebrows make a more emotional face.

A study a few years back reported that “Lego figures were getting angrier”.  This study was in my opinion, partially right, because whilst the Lego faces certainly had less “happy” reactions, this missed the point that for many, many years the Lego figure was a very simple smiling face – two dots for eyes and a round smile. Really though, it wasn’t an emotion, more of a happy resting face.

There seems to be an increase of figures that have interchangeable faces (Lego, but also, I have discovered Nendoroid) and this has expanded the ability to create situations where the emotion is more easily displayable.  Certainly, in the Lego world, customisation has produced a much, much larger range of emotional heads than previously available – and 3D customisation has also produced the interchangeable hands to further the expressive nature.

But even without changing a facial expression, the use of gestures in posable toys means that we can convey emotions.  Carefully posing a figure – or just clever framing – can enable the emotion to be clearly understood.

 Perceived emotions

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Although this might seem to be linked to the previous type, I think it is very different.  With a change of head, or posing, we can use expression to convey the image of happy, sad etc.  But in this section, this is the use of toys to present an image where the viewer can only “see” the emotion if they can extrapolate from the situation.  In this section, we have removed the typical indicators (smiling face, hypermobility of the figure) and have instead presented a scenario where the situation provides the emotion. I would suggest that this is probably the hardest / most challenging area to work in – it’s not just a case of putting the right parts together, but it’s about working out how to convey that emotion.

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I’m adding this one in because of the sheer random nature of circumstance.  I was drafting this post on the train when these two dinosaurs popped over the screen to see what was going on. The little girl was fascinated when I asked her to do it again so I could take a picture… which then resulted in me showing her some of the photos that I take with toys 🙂



Conveying emotion within toy photography is a complex subject.  If you didn’t grow up wanting the Matchbox Aston Martin Bond car, then seeing the toy car will probably not elicit an emotional response. One of the other cars on this shelf was a Matchbox Stingray – and was a car that I played with for many, many years at my grandmother’s house. For me, this car will generate lots of memories.

I would suggest that it is probably easier to convey an emotion if you can put together the emotion you want to display; the image of the happy Lego character is a clear indicator of the emotion that is being felt.  And as I suggested earlier, trying to convey emotion from the “emotionless” is probably the challenge in toy photography.

Ultimately this last element, the perceived emotion, is only successful when the viewer interprets the emotion that the photographer is trying to show; this is probably also (to be pretentious for a moment) the art of the toy photographer.

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I hope you enjoyed this collection – let me know what you think.

Next week – Spirituality.