Nostalgia and Embarrasment: My First Toy Photo

When Shelly initially asked me to write a post about my first toy photo, I was hit with competing feelings of excitement and apprehension. On one hand, I knew it’d be fun to look back at my early work and see how far I’ve come as a photographer. On the other, I knew that it’d be tough, as an artist, to view my early work without a twinge of embarrassment. Judging by similar posts written by Shelly, Mike, and Boris, I’m not alone in either of these regards.

Like Lizzi before me, I had a few options when deciding what counts as my first toy photo. Technically, it’s this heavily filtered, out-of-focus shot of a Clone Trooper bobblehead that, according to Instagram, I took 297 weeks ago and captioned, “These Aren’t the Beers You’re Looking For.”

I didn’t take another toy photo for several years. When I took the bobblehead picture, it wasn’t through some sort of itch to be a photographer, and I doubt that I even knew toy photography was a real option for me; I just thought it was funny. It wasn’t until October 9th, 2013 that I decided I wanted to become a LEGO photographer. It’s the day I first used a minifigure as my subject, and took this shot, “Cliffhanger.”

I remember that day vividly. Looking back now, I believe it was one of the most important days of my life, because of the decisions I’ve made personally, professionally, and artistically, that arose as a result of taking that picture.

Ever since I was young, I wanted to be an artist. As I grew up, the ways in which I satiated my artistic needs changed. I wrote short stories as a kid, moved on to short films just before high school, and then turned to professional videography and music videos once I graduated. I’d always been a fan of photography, but never quite found a subject or style that excited me. I felt that there was nothing new that I could bring to mediums like portraiture, surrealism, or nature photography. So, without a niche or a specific primary subject to focus on, I never felt compelled to pursue photography as an artistic option and instead kept my DSLR in video mode at all times.

Then, I took that shot of the Ice Climber minifigure taped to the open door of my freezer. The moment I did, photography – and my need to pursue it – finally “clicked” for me.

Looking at it now, “Cliffhanger” stands out as a shining example of everything I try to avoid in my art. The minifigure isn’t quite in focus, the exposure is too low, you can see a corner of the scotch tape I used to stick his ice pick to my freezer door, the background is too ambiguous, and the digital snow is distracting.

But, I remember how proud of it I was it at the time. How different it is compared to my current work only proves how far I’ve come as a photographer, which makes me even prouder to have taken it to begin with.

I look forward to the day when I look at my current Instagram feed with the same mixture of fond nostalgia and slight embarrassment.

~ James Garcia

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5 years ago

I love your post very much, James!
Thank you for your story! :-)
Kind Regards,

5 years ago

James you’re too hard on yourself. All the things you mention that bother you about this photo I didn’t even notice. I liked the ambiguous background, the low light seemed constant with a snowy day and with all the ‘snow’ you don’t notice the tape. It’s a great ‘first’ photo and one to be proud of. Personally I thought it was rather clever and certainly much better than the photos I took of mini figures around my house. Because I did the same thing in my early days of toy photography. Thanks so much for sharing your images and your… Read more »

5 years ago

Wonderful post James! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your first toy photo :-) I agree with Shelly….. I didn’t notice all the things you mentioned that you didn’t like about that photo. I actually like the snow and the out of focus background :-) Taking photos of minifigs inside is not an easy task and you did (and still do) a great job :-)

Tony Tulloch
5 years ago

There is a really important part of toy photography (or any photography for me) and that is an element of fun. Both of your images show this and for that you should be proud.
Thanks for sharing this with us James.

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