SIP 21 – Wealth

This week’s challenge is on the subject of wealth. Where I have worked recently, most of the conversations are typically about how shares are doing, which executive car they want to buy next, and… well, money, money, money. Which personally I find a little depressing as there is so much more to life than how big your bank balance is (and one main reason why I enjoy these photo/drawing challenges so much). But of course, that’s not to say I will never talk about these things – and so here we are.

Wealth (by all the references I have looked into) isn’t about how big your friend group is, or what life experiences you have gained – it is about the assets that one has. And in most cases, this is “anything of value” – i.e. stuff. This can be art, money, cars, minerals, land etc.

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Three hours to polish and 22 miles per gallon!

Reading an interesting Wikipedia article on this subject ( it also expanded to consider the concept of class (upper, middle and lower) – as behaviours in these groups are quite different, typically because of the amount of wealth each band might have. For Upper class, who will have the most wealth, it is about how to channel and use the wealth that one has to maintain and forge contacts that will enhance that wealth. For middle class, life is more about deciding how to spend the wealth that one has, rather than use the conceptual power that comes from that wealth. For the lower class, having the lowest of wealth, the focus is about obtaining wealth (but typically this is to cover expenses accrued).

I mention this because within only three bands there is always a situation when one considers someone else to be wealthy because they seem to have more assets than the other, without necessarily considering broader elements; two people could be earning the same amount of money, but one could be seen to be more wealthy because they aren’t married or have children (or indeed, don’t have the Mustang car!)

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But who is actually the wealthy one?

The two statements that I found in the article were these:

The Credit Suisse Wealth Report (mid-2013) estimated that, once debts had been subtracted, an adult required just USD 4,000 in assets to be within the wealthiest 50% of world citizens. However, at least USD 75,000 was needed to reach the top 10%, and USD 753,000 to belong to the most wealthy 1%.

Tim Harford has asserted that a small child has greater wealth than the 2 billion poorest people in the world combined, since a small child has no debt.”

But as a final image for this challenge this week, I will post this quote. The quote itself has an interesting story itself, attributed to the native american tribe Cree, although actually its first recognised use were in presentations given by native americans giving speeches in 1972. This version, however, was used by Greenpeace on a banner in 1982:


Next week: Honesty


SIP20 – Grace

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Grace has a few different interpretations – “they graced us with their presence”, “the grace of the Lord” – the one that I liked the most (and possibly the easiest to set up) was the grace of movement.

I love the phrase “dance like no-one is watching” because all too often we limit ourselves because of how we worry what other might think of us (such as a 50-year old male playing with an elephant in a tutu 🙂 ).  In truth though, it really shouldn’t limit us – it makes the world a far richer and more wonderful place to be.  Indeed, this freeing of attitude and approach also means that we can discover things about us that we never knew – perhaps we can dance with style and grace!

Next week we move to a potentially more altruistic challenge – that of wealth.

Have a great week.

SIP 19 – Leg Godt

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Just in case you didn’t know – and perhaps, why would you, “Leg Godt” means Play Well.  This was the message that was displayed in the first Lego workshop, when the company made wooden toys, way way back in the day – and is the the contraction that makes the product name that we know so well.

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This figure is printed onto “official” lego by the US Company Citizen Brick

This year celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Lego Minifigure.  Of course, many figures came before our little chap, but so much has changed regarding printing, facial expressions that whilst he retains much of the original design, there is still a lot that is new.  I feel quite fortunate that I have been able to get hold of the celebration anniversary policeman (as there is only 1 in every box of 60) and can sit it next to an original policeman.

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In case you hadn’t guessed – the original is on the right.  Very played well!

But there’s another thing that has changed recently – the patent that covered the minifigure and the interlocking construction system has expired – and so now companies such as Nanoblocks, MegaBloks, Oxford – and many others – can now produce products that are compatible with the Lego block.  And yes, there are also Chinese companies such as Lepin who will copy and resell cheap “knock off” versions.  But for some, buying a much cheaper version will make economic sense – especially if the young person playing with the set will just dump the whole lot into a box at the end of the day. I suspect that I would have had a lot more of this type of set if it had been around when I was younger.

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A variety of figures – all Lego compatible.

But the point of this isn’t to suggest that the knock off is great – that’s not the point.  Lego always used to have a limited colour palette and a very strict set of rules regarding what it would and would not create.  Greens and Browns were a no-no as was guns and “war” themes.  So the next image is that of all the things that Lego can’t – or won’t produce – either because they don’t have the license, or because it’s themed at a more adult market. So now we have companies like Brickarms, Oxford (and yes, there are others) who will happily fill this market, potentially for the Adult rather than the Child (especially given part cost) – and of course with franchise opportunities such as Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Lone Ranger the colours have become more varied and the weapons have arrived.  The fact that it took years for the Lego Minifigure Policeman to do something other than look at his car drive around (he couldn’t get into early models) and go to the bakery says something in itself.  Interestingly perhaps whilst we do have police stations and policemen in various guises, the hospitals seem few and far between.

Anyway, the point is this.  With the many different types of figures available – either from printing companies, third parties – or even created through 3D printing – the opportunities for the child (and the toy photographer) is far more richer than perhaps it has ever been.  And if you are prepared to get out the Dremel you can even get some of these to combine, too!

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Hello Kitty Head by Megabloks; body by Lego. 

Next week’s SIP prompt is “Grace”.  The possibilities are interesting – so let’s see what happens.

By the way, if you search Instagram for SIPGOES52, or SIP_*** where *** is the word of the week, you should see all manner of interesting takes; and to me this is what makes this challenge interesting.  See you next week.









SIP 18 – Commitment

“The state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.”

Since last week’s post I have been wondering what I could take a photo of (or photos, one never seems to be enough!) that would meet this week’s word.  I considered the posed Lego wedding, a proposal… and then packed up my suitcase to head off for sun, sea and sand in the Dominican Republic (yeah, yeah, brag, brag).  I then didn’t think anything of the word until I returned back to the much colder climate of England (28 degrees back to only 8!).

What I realised was that I had my photos.  I had captured commitment.  You see, when I go anywhere I always take a few toys with me – and this had been no exception.  I had packed a couple of minifigures, but also a new vinyl character called Chaffy, part of a Kickstarter campaign I had backed a short while ago.  I had even brought a couple of Tokidoki figures with me (unfortunately the situations never arose that would provide me with decent settings suitable for the figures)

sprouting Palm trees!
camera focused on the lady in the background. Hey ho.


A quick note about the images: those by the water was taken using a cheap waterproof camera – and you can see the lens curvature.  But it did its job and I’m happy enough.


Next week: Leg Godt (which means Play Well – and is the basis for that most infamous of toy brands Lego)

SIP 17 – Integrity

One definition of integrity is of being honest and having good moral values.  Another definition is that of structural integrity – the ability to remain integrated.  The easier subject matter is certainly the latter.

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Over she goes!

Growing up and playing Lego with my brother there was a definite division of roles and responsibilities in our building.  I would create the vehicle, and he would “test” it by guiding / pushing / throwing it down the stairs.  From that we would work out what should have come off, what should not have come off … and whether mum heard that crash or not.  But from that, we managed to develop some interesting vehicles with breakaway elements. I think the vehicles today are a lot more robust and would survive the Cliff of Death in a wholly disappointing way.

But from these humble beginnings we also got into Technic building – perhaps not in a big way, but certainly enough to understand what made a structurally sound construction (spoiler: it’s triangles) and what didn’t.

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I suppose the more challenging aspect of this week is the moral integrity, especially around toy photography and collecting.  The image below is a really good, and interesting example of that.

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Neither of the above figures are “official” LEGO figures.  However, the one on the right is made up from official LEGO parts (I cannot guarantee the provinence of the Droog on the left, but as I had to fit the arms and the hands I’m confident that these are very non-official).  I will be honest here and say that I have bought non-Lego minifigures and the quality of them has often been poor compared to a proper figure – but then they are ridiculously cheaper than the official ones.  The other challenge is that there is a huge grey market for some themes, such as the more adult ones.  I don’t see LEGO ever producing the Clockwork Orange themed set – so the opportunity for creating the Droog is down to:

  • creating it myself using Lego Parts and drawing on them
  • finding and buying a custom printed figure where they have used official Lego parts
  • Going to eBay and getting the cheaper version.

Of course, the fourth option is 3 and 1 – that is, getting the cheaper one and supplementing the really bad bits with official bits, but it’s still not proper Lego.

There are those who are comfortable with being fixed to the Lego market only – their thinking is that using these counterfeiting companies is damaging to the Lego brand and to the company – and it’s not an unreasonable way of thinking.  Of course, this extension of brand loyalty extends beyond the world of toyphotography – why buy branded cornflakes and baked beans when you can get similar for a fraction of the price?

In my study I have a wide range of toys – many official, but also one or two that I have found that aren’t but that which will still bring me happiness.  In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if I have bought things that aren’t official and yet I would not know having never seen the original in the first place.

This week’s Stuck In Plastic challenge has – for me at least – been less about the photography and more about the subject matter; probably because it is something that is personal.  It is fair to say that I am not loyal to any brand, but from that I have things that make me happy – and very comfortable to take out of the packaging and actually use.


Next week’s challenge is Commitment.

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.