Life on the Death Star

We are now 7 weeks into this year challenge, here on Stuck In Plastic. A new word (value or emotion) every week with a picture to illustrate it.

I am glad to see that many people are participating with us, taking and posting pictures on social media using the hashtag #SiPgoes52 .

My own logo for my SiPgoes52 project ;-)
My own logo for my SiPgoes52 project ;-)

But let me share with you my plans for this project.

At the beginning

Initially, when Boris told us that the plan was to illustrate 52 values during the year, I was a bit dubious.

I struggled in 2017 to have 12 pictures for the 12 words (and for some months, I didn’t even write a post). So 52 pictures seemed like an impossible task to tackle.
Would I succeed? Would I be able to find inspiration all those weeks?
But I kept my mouth shut on the subject and waited to see…

The end of 2017 was not easy for me. I was in a creative slump. I was not motivated by anything and started to think:
Why am I doing this stuff? Is it worth it? Is it time for me to stop?

The more I asked those questions, the more depressed I got.


The 52-word project

I think, this time, the 52-word project saved me.

It was Monday, January 1st 2018. We were in week 1.

I had my back against the wall. I did not want to fail (especially at the beginning). So, I had to come up with something. I needed an idea for a picture. Actually, NO. I had to come up with an idea for 52 pictures!

I needed a plan for the whole year.
Because of my work which regularly intrudes in my life and modifies my schedule at the last moment, I had to find a solution to be able to provide something every week. Yes, for this project I wanted to be creative and share 52 new pictures.

The calendar
The calendar

So I decided to go with a theme. A simple set-up and some characters that I would use on a regular basis.

And finally, it clicked.
I wanted to change from my usual pictures and do something indoor for once. That way I don’t depend on the weather and I can shoot at any time of the day.

I wanted a simple set-up.
I had some plastic wall panels from the Star Wars universe at home, that I never used and they would be a perfect candidate for a background. That was my theme. I liked the symmetry of the walls, so I decided to go with a black plexiglass floor, to use the reflection in my pictures.

My "Studio"
My “Studio”

As for the characters, I decided to go with classic Stormtroopers. I know that a lot of people use them in the toy photography community, but I found the subject interesting.
I was going to take 52 pictures reflecting on 52 human values and emotions. And for that, I would be using stormtroopers who only display blend emotions with their helmet.
We never see them as actual human beings in any Star Wars movie. We don’t know how they actually live on the Death Star.
So it would be interesting to give them some life and emotions.

Perfect. I had my theme, my set-up and now for the pictures idea.

My workflow

Boris shared the schedule with everyone on the blog a couple of days before the new year. The first thing I did was to print it in several exemplars and put one on my wall at home, on my desk at my office, even at the end of my work notepad and of coure, I kept one version at hand on my phone. That way I could always have a look at the schedule to see the next words to come and have the complete list.

At my office
At my office

I usually think about my pictures when my mind can escape: either during my daily commutes, at home or during boring meetings at work. And I either write some synopsis/description of the picture or I doodle something. It helps me get a general idea of the picture and can also help me to have a list of accessories and parts that I would need.

One of the terrible doodles that I draw
One of the terrible doodles that I draw…
... and the final picture
… and the final picture

So, I started a spreadsheet on my google drive with my pictures ideas, and I keep it updated on a regular basis. I can easily add stuff from my computer or my phone.

Then when I have time at home for pictures, I set up the “studio” and do several of those already planned pictures.

So, I came up with another spreadsheet to track my picture ideas, the pictures I took, and the pictures I posted online.
(Am I a control freak?! Maybe)

My roadmap
My roadmap at week 4

Having pictures in advance also helps me improve them. I have time to look at them, study them and if needed, I can decide to take them again from a new angle or with a new setup or story.

Now that I start getting ideas about future pictures, I see the project as a whole and I will encapsulate stories inside. That way, at the end, you will need to look at the bigger picture. You will notice some recurring characters and if you put the pictures in the correct order, you will see a story. But shh… It’s a secret for the future.


Even with all that preparation, there are still a lot of words which need ideas or pictures, so I will definitely have work for the whole year.

But at the same time, with each word, I like to take a look back at my pictures, the ones I took in the last years, to see which ones share the values on the list. I have a very strong link with some of them and I will share that with you during this year on the blog.

For each picture, I try to reflect upon myself. See what the word inspires me and what I feel thinking about it. It’s a very deep and interesting project. And to be honest, I am really glad I kept my mouth shut when I was not trusting it at the beginning, because I am definitely having fun.


By the way, since my mind was bursting with inspiration at the beginning of this project, I even found a name for my series of pictures. A simple one.

And during that whole year, I hope that you will enjoy, the “Life on the Death Star”.

Life on the Death Star
Life on the Death Star

Julien / Ballou34

Aeronautics engineer by day, toy photographer by night.
Exploring the world with his plastic figures.

6 Replies to “Life on the Death Star”

  1. I love the “Life on the Death Star” series Julien. I’m glad you were able to get some inspiration back (I’ve been struggling too!) and come up with all these wonderful photos. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of them throughout the year :-)


  2. It’s great to have a look at your process! I was also a bit dubious when Boris told us about the project, with no idea where we were going. I felt the same last year, and in the end, it all worked out so I was confident it would be the same.

    I’m glad you found an idea to structure your project. I’ve been trying to find one but failed. So I’ve been left with selecting photos from my existing pool and hoping it will make sense at some point (at least for my most significant words). Now that we’re a few weeks into the project, I’ve been able to start thinking ahead too, but there are still so many words for which I have no idea what to come up with.

    I don’t know if you’re a control freak, but if you are then I must be one too. I don’t use a spreadsheet but I track photos inside my Lightroom catalog with collections. For the ideas, I rely on Trello where I’ve got different sort of boards, like one to keep track of the calendar and one to keep track of ideas.

    1. Happy to see I created some anxiety. Not sure if that is a word that made it to our final list of 52, but I am sure you both would want to write a little story about it.

      Maelick, I am sure that by the end (or the middle) of the year, a theme will emerge, one that you are not aware of yet. Maybe some images may land as outliers, as anomalies to the story, but I am sure that since the 52 words are so deep connected with human values and emotions we all share, this will come good. I also have no big master plan, and I already know that I will reshoot my last week #bravery image as I am not happy, but I am like you without a big master plan.

      Julien, I love this post. I read it when it was in the draft section and already then I was amazed by the insights this post gave in your workflow. I for sure will want to buy the book (and the calendar for 2019) of life on the death star. A simple yet powerful idea, and I am curious to see if you will break out of your current scene and go and explore the galaxy or you will manage to cover all the 52 words in your Zen garden.

  3. Great pics every week! I would never have believed that you too had this sort of inner struggles :)
    Need to catch up on your fancy themes/words.
    Love the background you use. Another fantastic series in the making!

    1. Jean, just hop on the bus and take this weeks or next weeks word. No stress, no struggle. And if in the summer you feel like making an extra run for the earlier words you just do them as a summer job :)

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