Why? – FullNilson

I thought this would be much easier. Why do I take pictures of toys? I…I…I don’t know. No one has ever asked me about it! Am I too shallow to find a decent answer to such a basic question? Why?

Wait a moment.

I remember how I started. It was a few weeks after I’d moved out from my parents and started  to live with my girlfriend. One evening she came across one of many internet articles about this new “Amazing LEGO Photographer” and since she already knew that I was a huge Star Wars nerd, she obviously sent me the link. My reaction was pretty quick: ”PFFF, I CAN DO THAT!”

I immediately took out some old LEGO minifigs, set up the camera and the light, blew a huge amount of cigarette smoke and took a shot.

And it was hideous.

Back then, I was in the middle of my fourth year at Film School so I honestly felt disappointed. “Why on earth does it look so bad?” I asked myself a few times. Of course I blamed the gear, I had a bad camera, I had the wrong lens blah blah blah – just your regular teenage drama.

But that moment gave me a serious kick. The very next day, I bought everything I thought was needed. Small LED lamps, macro rings and a bunch of new Star Wars sets. I spent an entire evening trying to get decent results…but nothing worked.

So I went back to the basics. I pulled out my DoP books and I read them once more. And honestly – I was afraid. If I can’t take a single good looking picture at this point of my life – does that mean I won’t be able to make movies? I’ve never thought of myself as a photographer. I was all about films, visual effects, camera moves, action…it’s not the same right?

Right?

Well, no.

It is. In a certain point of view.

So I pushed myself to try again and again everyday. But this time it was all about light, the value of it, the law of contrasts and understanding of the camera. I quit thinking about the WOW FACTOR and I focused on the correct image.

So now I think I know why I take pictures of toys.

For practice. To train myself and to get better with every shot. To have absolute control of my workflow. To find a way to transfer the experience I’ve earned with LEGO to real movie sets. And you know what? It works.

002 Get ready!

Four years after that groundbreaking evening I feel much more confident. I’ve made a lot of short- and mid length documentaries after I graduated and every time, in a back of my head, I’ve had that feeling that I know what I’m doing.

001 Where is it?

The variety of LEGO scenes has given me an opportunity to encounter so many different examples of setups I’ll certainly find myself in at some point in the future. I honestly feel I’m prepared for everything. A low light interior – no problem. High contrast outdoor – sure, why not. A freaking blizzard with giant mechanical elephants – well, I’m still working on that one.

004 Look how old you've become

The moment I realized that working in macro scale has almost the exact same laws as working “in real life”, it brought me that grim satisfaction that I’ve learned more by myself than at Film School; at least when it comes to practical results. So I’m trying to make a cinematic impression with every shot. To make the bricks look alive. To achieve the feeling as if someone paused the movie and forced me to look at a single frame.

003 They were headed back to Jakku

And I’m starting to feel good about it.

“Practice makes perfect.”

Now, here I am. Amongst other absolutely fantastic people from Stuck In Plastic – what a twist, right?

Thank you so much Shelly for an opportunity to share my “Why?” story. I really feel honored.

Nilsøn (@fullnilson)

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Sabe
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“To achieve the feeling as if someone paused the movie and forced me to look at a single frame.”

Thanks for this sentence! I’m just starting with Lego photography (@nutelasabe on instagram if anyone is interested) and for me this is a whole new way to look at it. And thanks for saying that your photos were not good in the beginning :) It gives me hope :))

brett_wilson
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Thanks for sharing this with us Nilsøn. The question of “why?”, although it initially seems a simple one to answer, more than often throws up some amazing, self-searching observations of, not only the artists’ work, but also the artist themselves. This is definitely the case with you wonderfully insightful answer. :D

handstand
Member

Fantastic post! I’ve always admired your wonderful lighting and setups so I was fascinated to read your story about how you got into LEGO photography. It’s always a joy to see your photos on Flickr :-)