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:
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)
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.
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?
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 stuckinplastic.com For more information, and other really cool toy photography, go there and check it out!)
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
I hope you enjoyed this collection – let me know what you think.
This week’s challenge was the subject “Security”. I thought about what security could mean – the security of having a home, a loving family; but also the security of having safety harnesses etc if you were climbing. I got out my Lego minifigure Security Guard – surely he could be useful? I did consider Maslow’s Pyramid of needs – the whole aspect of levels of comfort and security in your surroundings build as the needs are satisfied and the the individual feels more comfortable – but I figured that would be just a little too thinky for this… and besides, there are a lot more complex subjects later in the year which will require my brainpower!
As it was, I found Hamm and the custom printed cheque tile – and so the image above was created (and the Security guy remained in the bag). I found I had to use a 2×1 brick for the minifigure to stand on – just standing on the desk he was overshadowed by Hamm and the whole effect of putting the cheque into the slot just didn’t work.
I thought that the cheque worked better than a note or a coin; these are both more immediate forms of currency – if you were to open Hamm and empty his contents you could just go to the sweet shop and buy All The Sweets; but if you had a cheque? Well, you would have to take that to the bank and wait for it to clear – a further security measure.
This week’s challenge word was fitness – so I spent much of the week debating a few things:
what did fitness mean
what would the composition of the image look like
did I want to make it funny
would I use Lego this week?
So the last question was answered quickly and easily – no. It’s still in boxes, or in the garage, so I would be reliant on the things I had around me. A recent trip to Ikea had seen the toy chair “fall” into the shopping basket (a great little set that had the chair, plus a table, bed, cupboard and rug – all at Bodykun size) so the idea of using that worked into the image. It also added a small element of colour.
The first question was the challenge though. Fitness isn’t just about “being fit” (so being able to run, jump etc) it can also mean “fit for purpose” – so that opened up a number of opportunities. However, I did decide that actually just going with physical fitness would be good.
The compositions and images took place on Friday – and you can see the results. I took the “serious” image above and was quite pleased with it – personally, I always found chair dips difficult as you never seemed to be far enough away from the chair, but Benjamin seems to be OK. I then decided that because of Benjamin’s physique that actually a much more challenging “feet on the chair” press up would be fairly easy to deliver too. As he held the pose, the idea of William putting a beer on Benjamin’s back just made sense. Not saying that’s ever happened in real life of course…. 🙂