Hello reader. I’m David, writing to you from Stockholm, Sweden. I had the pleasure of spending my 29th of August with a wonderful group of talented artists at Stuck In Plastics’s #BalticToySafari and Shelly asked if I would share my experience with you.
There’s some backstory here I won’t go into now, about me the lonely photographer many years ago who recently found a new level of joy and creativity in collaborative artistry. The important part starts when I saw the open invitation to join a “photo safari” in Stockholm, my home town, and I signed up right away.
Months went by as I practiced and explored what I could do with LEGO in front of a camera, until the day finally came when I drove up to Waxholm and sat with Stefan from Malmö and my scout trooper on the docks, waiting for the others to wrap their morning shoot at the fortress.
When they arrived it was quick introductions before Boris showed us around the little town on the kind of photowalk I’m used to hosting. It was great to have someone else lead and all I had to think about was to catch up after I’d stopped to shoot something. Though every time we stopped together we all found our own place to set up our toys. Of course we talked, compared toys and gear, but there was none of the creative collaboration I’d expected. I realized maybe we were all so used to doing this alone, and that’s how we were doing it again.
I was a little worried for a while, until it started to change. Like when Kristina told me she liked shooting other artists at work but often didn’t for fear she might intrude on them. I replied “I’ll be on my stomach shooting a diver going into the water; intrude as much as you possibly can.” To me that’s not a distraction, not at all. Most of the time being watched by other artists inspires me to do better.
After a few hours in town we went to Boris’s house for lunch, and when we headed out for another walk, it felt like I’d known these guys forever. And I knew them by their names, not their Instagram handles.
Boris had planned three stops for the afternoon walk: the overgrown ruins of an old fortress, a rocky shore, and a now-abandoned military battery that during the Cold War had guarded a narrow sound on the waterway into Stockholm. Every stop brought new opportunities to work together, and at the last one I got one of my favorite shots of the day: though it’s a horrible photo, the stormtrooper on my shoe looks great to me because of how it came about, during a game of “What If You…” we improvised together.
As the sun was setting we all gathered on the pier and I’m at a loss for words to describe the feeling when we moved seamless between shooting our own toys and helping each other to get their shots. It continued after dinner as we gathered around the fire pit, some roasting marshmallows, others shooting toys against the fire backlight. I got some comments on how my collaborative style was unusual among toy photographers. Is it? I don’t know. I didn’t know any other toy photographers before this day. But now I do, and maybe there’s more out there who want to give it a try?
I think Shelly said next year we do this again in Chicago; well count me in!
Until then, if you want to photowalk in Stockholm, just pack your toys and drop me a line on Instagram.