Brian McCarty creates ultra cool toy photographs

Brian McCarty is the coolest toy photographer you probably haven’t heard of. Of course, maybe you have an eye for the amazing and you already know of his work. If not, let me introduce you.

Brian McCarty is the author of two books: Art-Toys and War-Toys. Both are full of inspiring photography but for very different reasons.

Art-Toys

In Art-Toys, Brian works with independent artists and their art toy creations to create sublime and beautiful images. His work is extremely colorful which highlights the often primary colors of these plastic toys. His wide angle lens captures these unique toys and the surrounding environment in ways that result in interesting and unexpected interactions. It doesn’t matter if the toy is in a parking garage, in the desert, at the bottom of a swimming pool, in front of a bilboard or on a city street, the locations are fascinating and the toys look fantastic. Each is a complex and surreal story that we’re allowed a glimpse of one tiny frame.

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Tigerlilly by Brian McCarty

I admire Brian’s’ ability to capture wide open vistas yet still construct an image that fills intimate. I am in awe of his technical prowess behind the camera. His use of practical effects always add to the overall story, never overwhelming it. HIs penchant for combining toys with the ‘real’ world by adding humans is something we hardly ever see in what passes for modern day toy photography. Rather than the conceit of ‘bring the toys to life’ these toys have broken through the imaginary third wall and are actually inhabiting our world.

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The Regular Show for Cartoon Network by Brian McCarty

What make this book truly unique from the toy photographers perspective (as well as for the art toy collector) is the Behind the Scenes section. There are thirty-five pages of Brian at work on location for you to learn from. There are so many stories about individual images, information about the artists who created the toys he’s photographing, Brian’s thought process behind some of his most iconic images – for this part alone, this book is a must have for your book collection.

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Koibito by Brian McCarty
War-Toys

While Art-Toys is a work of art, War-Toys is a labor of love. Brian has taken the same sensibility that he brought to his Art-Toys series but to war torn regions like Israel, The West Bank and The Gaza Strip. Working in conjunction with art and play therapists as well as local care givers, Brian recreated the art work of children who’s lives are directly effected by war. Brian uses their drawings and local toys, often set-up at the same place the event happened, to create a powerful side-by-side narrative.  In a most childlike and powerful  way, he brings the horrors of war into stark reality.

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Sderot Home by Brian McCarty

The images that Brian has created in conjunction with these children who’s lives are directly impacted by war, is a pictorial essay on exactly what ‘collateral damage’ looks like. The colors might be bright and candy colored, but the reality is anything but pretty.

Mother of Violence by Brian McCarty
Mother of Violence by Brian McCarty

It is this work in a war zone that sets Brian apart from other toy photographers. He has elevated toy photography to something more than simply a creative toy dashing across the desert; each image is a testament to the horrors of war. He creates art. He has profoundly affected my view on the world and how I see my own work. It’s no secret that I don’t like to see violence used in toy photography. I think it’s a disturbing trend that unfortunately reflects the world we live in. The images in War-Toys are harrowing to say the least. To see the fears and real life experiences of children played out using Playmobile, HO scale figures and green amy soldiers is sobering. That Playmobile mom laying in a pool of ‘blood’ outside a burning plastic bus while a real fire rages in the background and a toy helicopter hovers in the background – that really happened to someone. That’s a sobering thought.

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Wall Shooting by Brian McCarty

Describing Brian’s work as powerful, does not go far enough.

I hope you’ll check out both of his books; they each have so much to offer the aspiring toy photographer as well as citizens of the world. If you decide to purchase one of his book, please consider buying the special edition. All money raised from the sale of these limited edition, signed copies, help to fund Brian’s continuing War-Toys project.

You can find out more about Brian and his work on his website or you can follow him on Instagram.

~ Shelly

Who inspires you?

Did you notice all those beautiful leading lines

The Basics – Leading Lines

‘Leading lines’ is one of the tricks photographers use to organize their composition to create a stronger visual impact. Leading lines are simple visual cues that help guide the viewer’s eyes around the photo and towards (or away) from the main subject.

Hunkering down in the mud to escape the wind. But oh the light was beautiful!
The line of bokeh leads the viewers gaze in the same direction that Laval is walking. Whenever I look at this image, I wonder where he’s going on such a beautiful evening. Notice the strong feeling of depth these lines give the image?

When we think of leading lines we often think of the typical shot of railroad tracks moving towards the horizon line. This is a classic trick to draw the viewer into the image. But ‘leading lines’ can be so much more. These lines create movement and a sense of depth in an other wise still and flat image. Leading lines can be as direct as those quintessential railroad tracks or as subtle as shadow play. In macro photography they can be a line in the sand or the grain in a piece of wood.

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I love how the lines on this piece of wood act as a road in to and out of the image. They create a strong visual depth, all the way from the back of the image to outside the picture frame. I wonder where those Swamp Monsters are headed?

When you set up your photo look at your surroundings and see if you can identify strong lines that can to direct your viewers attention to the subject. These lines can be anything: a blade of grass, sticks, fence posts, tree branches or the curve of a water line. When you’re looking for potential photo locations look for patterns, light and dark, or elements that have a strong sense of direction and utilize them to give your photograph a sense of movement.

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With the mini figure nestled into the depression left by the line of rocks your eye can’t help but be drawn to the improbably image of a Chima riding a Tauntaun. The slop of the rocks echo the slope of the back of the Tauntaun creating a nice double curved line I find reinforces the effect of the leading lines and brings the background and the subject onto one visual plane.

Leading lines works as effectively in a studio as outdoors. You can use props to direct the viewers gaze from the edge of the image to the subject. Or you can use lighting to create light and dark areas that will produce that same feeling of visual movement.

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The strong line of the rock begs to be ridden down by Li’Ella. As my eye travels down the rocks slope it picks up speed, much as the skateboard would do on its own exciting ride. The background foliage echoes the strong vertical lines adding to the sense of motion.

A strong composition is the foundation of any great photograph. Leading lines is just one of several tricks photographers have been using for years to create dynamic photographs. The next time you set up a photo, look for those leading lines and start playing with this classic photography compositional tool. I certainly hope you have as much fun looking for them as I do!

~ xxSJC

I love it when you share your work with me. If you have an image your proud of, that shows the use of leading lines, leave a link in the comments so we can learn from each other. 

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When I first saw this sharp pointed piece of concrete I knew I had to take advantage of those graphically strong lines. I like how Chase McCaine seems to be speeding away from the vanishing point created by the strong triangle.
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Not all leading lines are created by physical elements. This ray of light captured while photographing an intimate moment between Boba and a neighborhood cat helps to keep the viewers eyes focused on the subject.

Rebel Grrrl

Rebel Grrrl

Girls to the front

Recently, for the umpteenth time, I rewatched “The Punk Singer”, a documentary about feminist singer Kathleen Hanna who fronted the band Bikini Kill.

Kathleen is well known for being an outspoken radical feminist, credited with launching the third-wave of feminism when she helped create the riot grrrl punk movement. At Bikini Kill concerts, Hanna would encourage and enforce that women were to move to the front of the stage. The “girls to the front” concept was symbolic in empowering women at Bikini Kill concerts.

I’m no stranger to feminism. My wife majored in Women’s Studies at university, and has imparted feminist virtues in me. The Female Eunuch sits amongst many feminist writings in our bookshelves. We have an International Women’s Day tea towel (yes, I grasp the irony of this).

TC-14
TC-14

All the doves that fly past my eyes,
Have a stickiness to their wings,
In the doorway of my demise I stand,
Encased in the whisper you taught me
Bikini Kill – Feels Blind

So why am I writing this on a toy photography blog? Let me explain…

I’m not about to reignite the debate about the gender gap in Lego minifigure numbers. We’ve all seen the numbers.

Nor am I about to discuss the topic of female toy photographers in a male dominated field. I’d like to think we can all appreciate that the term toy photographer is gender-neutral and therefore whether the person behind the lens has a penis or not really shouldn’t matter.

I am however challenging myself, and anyone else that wants to join in, to embrace my inner riot grrrl, and spend the next two weeks photographing only female Lego minifigures.

Dare ya to do what you want
Dare ya to be who you will
Bikini Kill – Double Dare Ya

I’ll put my hand up and admit that I often overlook female Lego figs as subject matter. Scanning through my posts here, for example, only two out of sixteen (not including this one) contain a female character in the featured image. And that ratio is even less on Instagram. Is this purely a numbers thing? Is it simply the fact that I own more male Lego than females? Is it because I can identify with male minifigures more readily? I don’t know. Yet, by making a conscious decision to get my Lego “girls to the front”, maybe this will change.

Aren't they all wonder women?
Aren’t they all wonder women?

That girl thinks she’s the queen of the neighborhood
I got news for you, she IS!
Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl

Inspired by Kathleen Hanna, I’ll be posting only #legogirlstothefront shots on Instagram for the following fortnight.

Summer Projects

Summer holidays are just around the corner, one more day of meetings with Big Inc. and then we will be packing the full crew and gear into their respective bags and carriers alike and head down south for two weeks of sunny relaxing and some smaller photographic adventures on the side.

Alfred Great Summer Adventure
Alfred Great Summer Adventure

This year it is not going to be some epic adventure with a big storyline, but more a focus on photography itself. The storyline is set (more on that next week), the gear is being packed and the cameras for the adventure selected. I will be taking my good old full frame  DSLR with me together with my favorite primes, but this year I will also be taking a few other cameras with me of different frame sizes.

This year I want to go back to the future and try to use my iPhone as a full fledged camera again that will be doing more than just snapping a quick behind the scene or be there when you need a snapshot and the only good camera you have along is the one you have along (read your mobile).

I started my plastic Instagram adventure a good 5 years ago with an iPhone 2 and evolved over the years to posting mainly DSLR images on Instagram and just using my iPhone as the bridge into IG.

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Shot with a full frame DSLR of Nikon or an iPhone ?

The mobile smartphone cameras have evolved enormously over the years, and while I wont replace my good old Nikon for an iPhone (or a Sony) anytime soon, I do want to focus on getting some great shots with my iPhone as well this time ( I know there are some fantastic photographers out there that only use their mobile camera).

The iPhone 6 is an awesome piece of technology with a great camera that includes Harry Potter like photo capabilities with its LIVE view and native build in HDR, panorama capabilities that don’t need stitching and the most awesome slow motion all packed into this wonderful piece of technology fitting easily in the back of your pocket.

Ohh, and did I say, I cant wait to see if the iPhone 7 will finally join the likes of Samsung and Sony Xperia and be fully waterproof so I no longer have to think about getting a wetsuit or dry bag for my DSLR and iPhone alike when shooting Alfred big adventure.

Not sure how this photographic adventure will pan out this summer, but I am going to give it a try and push my iPhone to my creative limits. Curious if you will see the difference when I post the odd iPhone shot on my IG summer feed this time …

A summer project to look forward to …

Me2

Alfred Big Adventure

 

Do you recognise if I used a classic DSLR or iPhone for capturing Alfred on his great adventure ?
Do you think it matters ?

Our First Contest!

I’m so excited to be announcing our first LEGO toy photography contest!

As many of you know we have an ongoing relationship with the folks at Bricks Culture to write about toy photography and showcase the work of our amazing community. Our first article was a brief introduction to toy photography while our second article talked about the fun of taking toys on vacation with you. Our third article is on robots, a topic near and dear to all of us here at Stuck in Plastic.

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“Awake” by Mike Stimpson

For each of our articles we need to submit awesome photos… and this is where you come in. We want to see your amazing photos of robots; LEGO robots come in many shapes and sizes; they run the gamut from mechs to Wall-E, from original MOCs to mini figures. We want to feature as many amazing photographs from this community as we can. Continue reading Our First Contest!

Mea Culpa

mea cul·pa  (mā′ə ko͝ol′pə, kŭl′-, mē′ə)

An acknowledgment of a personal error or fault.

Yesterday I was poking around the backend of the blog as I often do, cleaning out the spam subscribers, checking on comments, seeing what the views are on the latest post when I noticed a little yellow light next to the word “feedback”. Now I know enough about WordPress to know that a little yellow box usually means something needs to be attended to, so I checked it out.
Continue reading Mea Culpa

The Basics – Sticky Tack

Sticky Tack or Blu-Tack can be a toy photographers best friend. If you’re not familiar with this amazing substance, it is a little piece of removable gummy substance you can attach to your toy to help with a difficult pose, an uneven surface, an uncooperative accessory or a stiff wind. Continue reading The Basics – Sticky Tack

A clean bill of wealth

Out with the new, in with the old

Lacking motivation. Inspiration deficient. Stuck in a plastic rut. Brick block.

We’ve all be there.

I too was recently on the precipice of a tumble deep into the inability to initiate.

And what does someone like me do in these times? I clean. Continue reading A clean bill of wealth

Why? – The Short News

Almost every day of the week, I get up at 6:30am (grab coffee #1), trawl the internet for interesting news (while drinking coffee #2), create an image to represent the selected story using toys such as Lego, then post the edited picture on my website and various social media platforms along with a brief summary

…But why do I do it? Continue reading Why? – The Short News

An Arts Collective