Week 17 – Ching Shih

For many of you, Ching Shih might be among the most obscure human beings on our list.

The Pirate Woman

Ching Shih is a Chinese pirate woman who terrorized the seas of China in the early 19th century. She can be considered as the most successful pirate ever. Not only she commanded the biggest pirate crew, but she also died as a free old woman.

My Elvish Ching Shih
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Week 16 – Einstein

Albert Einstein… Is it really needed to present (the one who’s probably) the most famous scientist? If so, here’s a brief insight into his life.

The Scientist

Einstein was a theoretical physicist who revolutionized physics with the theory of relativity. One of Einstein’s goals or dreams was to have a single scientific theory that could explain all physical phenomenon. In particular, at the beginning of the century, classical physical laws couldn’t explain a recently discovered phenomenon: electromagnetism.

This is what led him to state the theories of special and general relativity which reconciled Maxwell equations (electromagnetism) and classical Newtonian mechanics.

It is quite a coincidence that the first image of a black hole was revealed last week… Indeed, the idea for the existence of black holes roots in Einstein’s theory of relativity. (Credit: Event Horizon Telescope, CC BY 3.0)

For much of his life, Einstein dreamed and tried to find a way to unify physical laws. Although known from the general public as a genius, he often ignored new theories and was laughed at by mainstream physicists. He never managed to find said a theory. Nowadays, finding a theory that explains everything is still the major challenge in theoretical physics.

The activist

What inspires me most about Einstein is not his impressive scientific career, but his strong opposition to war. Indeed, as a pacifist, he abandoned his German nationality for Swiss to avoid military service. He signed a counter-manifesto to the one written by 93 German scientists who supported World War 1. While he opposed German war aspirations before the WW1, he also protested against the Allies spoil of wars after 1918 and worked in order to repair relationships between France and Germany.

As a jew, he emigrated from Germany to the US shortly before the Nazis rose to power. While he signed the letter advising the USA to develop the atomic bomb, as he feared the danger of the Nazis doing it first, he later regretted it. He campaigned against the use of weapons of mass destruction, eventually signing before his death a letter that would lead to the creation of an organization seeking to reduce their threats.

Throwing back a photo from SiPgoes52 about Harmony, that also matches the pacifist theme of this week.

If you’re in to show us your vision of this famous man, be sure to tag your photos with #SiP_Albert_Einstein on social media.

Taakse jää! Taakse jää!

Disney Revival

In my previous post, I mentioned that I grew up in the 90s being heavily influenced by movies from the second Disney golden age. Still today, I’m a huge Disney fan. But between the 90s and today, there’s been a gap during which my interest in Disney animation movie went down.

Indeed, towards the end of the 90s, quality in Disney animation went down. With the arrival of computer animated graphics, (non-Pixar) Disney really struggled. Things started to change in 2006 when Disney bought Pixar, and John Lasseter, Woody‘s father, was put in charge of Disney Animation Studious.

But I didn’t catch the train back then. I had no expectation from Disney anymore. Things changed with Frozen. I didn’t see it in a movie theater, but one or two years after its release. Frozen blew my mind and made me realize that we were entering another Disney golden age.

So not only Disney had a strong influence on me in the 90s, but it keeps influencing me nowadays with new film releases.

After the first Disney CMF series, I thought we would soon get a second one… But it didn’t happen. When this new series was announced, I was truly thrilled. And excited when I saw that some of my favorite characters were part of the series.

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Disney Magic

I’m almost ashamed that a few weeks ago I wrote about how I was tired of pop culture. Yet I have to admit that I’ve been pretty excited just thinking about the upcoming Disney movie releases. The live action version of Aladdin, the remake of the Lion King, Toy Story 4 and Frozen 2.

I’m a huge Disney fan. Needless to say that for me, Disney nostalgia goes hand in hand with toy photography. I grew up in the 90s and the Disney animation movies from the second Disney golden age had a strong influence on me.

After the first Disney CMF series, I thought we would soon get a second one… But it didn’t happen. When the new series was announced, I was truly thrilled. And excited when I saw that some of my favorite characters were part of the series.

But before writing about those characters, I have to finish a work in progress project that was started in December.

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Week 14 – Robin Williams

For the first week of April, our human being is Robin Williams. Comedian and actor, he has played in many iconic films.

The comedian

He started as a stand-up comedian in the Bay Area during the 70s. Then began performing on TV and in movies in the 80s. It’s with Good Morning Vietnam, for which he got a nomination for Academy Award for Best Actor, that he became a renown actor. He won and got nominations to the Academy Awards for many of his appearances in movies in the next years. Dead Poets Society, The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting.

Other well-known roles in Hollywood blockbusters include Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, Flubber, the Bicentennial Man or Night at the Museum.

Besides his career as a standup comedian and an actor in live-action movies, he also performed as a voice for animated characters. Most notably, he is the iconic voice of Aladdin‘s Genie. He also gave his voice to the robot of one former attraction at Disneyland, the Timekeeper.

The man

Besides being an incredible comedian, Robin Williams also had a life with struggles. Before becoming a movie star, he developed an addiction to cocaine. Following the trauma of the death of John Belushi from an overdose, Williams decided to stop drugs. He started cycling and developed a passion for it. Later he admitted it saved him.

However, in the 2000s, he started drinking again. He was also someone suffering from severe depression which led him to end his life in 2014.

Robin Williams in SiPgoes53

To me, Robin Williams is one of those iconic actors from the 90s. It’s one of the persons on our list that yells “nostalgia” at me. As much as I love Dead Poets Society (try to not cry before the end of the movie), if I had to choose a single of Robin Williams’ roles for toy photography, it would be Hook.

Directed by Spielberg (another human being of SiPgoes53), the film act as a sequel to Peter Pan. Williams portraits an adult version of Peter who has forgotten about his past life, is married, work and has children. However, he has to go back to Neverland to save his children kidnapped by Captain Hook, portrayed by another fabulous actor, Dustin Hoffman. A wonderful critique of adult life and a story about how much we need to keep our inner child alive.

In addition to the great cast (which also includes fabulous actors such as Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, and Maggie Smith) and a beautiful soundtrack (composed by no one else than John Williams), the movie is visually stunning. It has that kind of atmosphere screaming “Adventure!” that makes me want to play with my toys in front of a camera.

But what will you create this week? Will you also take inspiration from one of Williams’ roles? Or maybe the more serious aspects of his life? Or you will look for something more remote, like the name of his daughter inspired by a famous video game princess?

In any case, don’t forget to tag your photos on social media with #SiPgoes53 and #SiP_Robin_Williams!

The photos no one will ever see

I struggle with social media. I talked about it recently, here and on my own blog.

It’s been over a year now that I’ve had trouble finding the motivation to keep on with the various social media platforms I use(d).

Social Media Tiredness

I’ve been struggling with being active on social media as a viewer.

After a few years, a part of me feels like it’s always the same. I often find myself scrolling through Instagram, simply double tapping a few photos that caught my attention for more than half a second, and then directly jumping to the next one.

There are still many photos that amaze me. At the same time, there are so many photos out there that it’s hard to truly enjoy everything. It takes too much time.

Social media has become to me the fast-food of photography. It has nothing to do with the quality of the photos, but rather the way we consume it. Like fast food, social media is made to be consumed quickly and it doesn’t encourage you to spend enough time to truly enjoy someone else’s photography.

(For enjoying others’ photography, I find meeting with them in the real world, exchanging prints and hanging them at home to be more effective.)

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Toy Photography, Hype, and Pop Culture Overdose

Does too much hype kills the hype?

Every time a new CMF series is released, my IG feed is flooded with pictures of the new Minifigures. While some people manage to buy them in stores before the official release date, I’m usually in the category of people who have to wait a few weeks to get them. Indeed, Finnish toy stores (and supermarkets) can be slow getting newly released LEGO sets.

I’m rarely in a hurry when it comes to getting something new, so it’s fine with me. But with the CMF, I noticed that by the time I can buy them, I’ve seen so many pictures that I don’t have any inspiration left to take pictures.

Getting from LEGO a couple of CMF to review for the blog has one advantage: I can play with the new minifigs before Instagram is invaded with pictures of them. It’s how I fell in love with Aria. Without the great opportunity to play earlier with her, I would probably have had very little interest in photographing her. She’s still today one of my favorite Minifigures, always accompanying me outside and still going out in front of my camera regularly.

My latest photo of Aria.

Sometimes, I can experience the same feeling of tiredness with “regular” sets. Lately, it was the LEGO Movie 2 Space Squad. It’s undoubtedly an amazing set. As soon as I saw the first official images, I couldn’t wait to buy it. But by the time I got my own copy in late December, I was already fed up with seeing pictures of the pink spaceman everywhere. So I gave up the idea of using the spaceman for any photo.

Pop Culture Overdose

But besides the more occasional hype coming with the release of new toys, I’m experiencing more and more that feeling on a whole new level. I’m getting tired of pop culture.

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Week 8 – Marie Skłodowska Curie

For the past three weeks, we’ve been exploring more contemporary but less famous human beings. This week, we are back with a more famous person that most people know at least by name, Marie Curie.

Born Maria Salomea Skłodowska, she was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, first in physics in 1903 and then in chemistry in 1911, for her work on radioactivity and the discovery of two elements.

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Toy Photography Rembrandt Lighting

On Monday I mentioned Rembrandt lighting as one of the characteristics of Annie Leibovitz photographic style. Following that, I felt the need to play with toys and lights… at home. Something unusual for me who mostly plays outside.

Just out of curiosity, I wanted to see how easy (or difficult) it was to get something close to Rembrandt lighting with toys, and in particular with LEGO Minifigs.

Rembrandt lighting

A Rembrandt lighting is a technique used in portrait photography that imitates the lighting style of Dutch painter Rembrandt. One characteristic of many of Rembrandt’s paintings is the specific use of low-key light creating a shadow shaped like a triangle below one of the eyes of the subject. The goal is to create interesting shadows and lights driving the eyes of the viewer through the frame.

Self-Portrait of Rembrandt (1658)

In photography, this is usually achieved by placing the main source of light above the subject at a 45° angle.

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