It’s A Small World with David Gilliver

Recently Bevvypix asked our Feature Friday guest if he would like to tell us all about his toy photography. And without hesitation David said yes. Bev was introduced to his work whilst studying her MA in Photography. Although she specifically use Lego in her images, she was interested to know there are other types of toy photographers out there, all creating little universes and highlighting environmental issues in different ways.

Without further avail, let us introduce the Miniature Worlds and creative Toy Photography of published artist David Gilliver.

Who is David Gilliver?

Hello. My name is David and I am a professional Macro-photographer and ‘Light Painter’. A little bit about me, I graduated from a Fine Art Photography (BA Hons) course at the Glasgow School of Art back in 2001, and I have been working hard to establish myself as a respected professional photographer and artist ever since. My work specialises in long-exposure photography (the art of ‘Light Painting’) and macro photography (my ‘Little People’ and Toy series).

Highlights

Over the years, my work has received some very welcome attention. This has led to me becoming involved in some very exciting projects all over the world. Some highlights of the past few years include having some of my photography stocked by John Lewis, providing bespoke artwork for the wonderful AIDA cruise-ship restaurants, and working on exciting projects/commissions with ThreeUK, the Canary Islands Tourism Group, Sony, and Adobe.

Commission with ThreeUK © David Gilliver

A Step by Step Guide

My main passions are creating bespoke artworks for my clients, and teaching others about the magical techniques that I have fallen in love with – Macro Photography and Light Painting.

During the first Lockdown in 2020, I decided to make good use of my time (as all of my Workshops had to be cancelled) and so I spent several months writing two very detailed interactive eBooks to help other photographers learn more about these magical techniques. 

A Witness at the Scene

Rewinding all the way back to 1998 to when it all started. I witnessed a dreadful road accident taking place involving a lorry and a car. Thankfully (and rather miraculously!) the driver of the car avoided any serious injury and was retrieved from the car-wreck unscathed by the emergency services. As I was a young budding student photographer at the time, I took 1 photograph of the scene. It reminded me of the small figurines I used to play with as a young boy.

As I watched the emergency services personnel working below me (I was up on the 3rd floor of a Dental surgery waiting to be seen at the time!) I felt a strong compulsion to recreate the scene using miniatures. This developed into part of a Fine Art Project that I was working on at Art School. And so began my love affair (and obsession) with macro photography. I have now been building and photographing dioramas for the past 23 years and counting, and appear to have coined a style of photography which has inspired so many photographers all over the world which delights me! 

Recreating a scene that I witnessed, thankfully no one was hurt. © David Gilliver

Tackling Themes

A useful point to mention here is back in the 90’s when I was just getting started. I took a lot of inspiration from the legend that is David Levinthal – an American photographer and artist who has produced some incredible artworks using figurines. You can check out some of his work here: http://davidlevinthal.com/

Over the years I have created many series of artworks, tackling themes such as:

  • Plastic Pollution
  • Brexit 
  • And more recently, the global pandemic that is ‘Covid19’ 

I think because the work is figurative in nature, it is immediately relatable (on some level) to those who view it. This makes it easier to convey serious messages when broaching subjects like those I mention above. It is important to not only have fun when making work like this, but when possible, to also convey useful messages when the opportunity arises. For me, I find this process incredibly cathartic as making this work helps me to process my feelings and thoughts.

Behind the Scenes

My ‘Miniature Worlds’ are very basic in terms of how I construct each scene. For example, some of my backdrops are quite simply cotton wool stuck to blue card to create the impression of a cloudy sky background. Because I use a shallow depth of field when capturing this work, the backdrops (albeit crude and simple in nature) feel reasonably convincing.

To light each scene, I normally use whatever ambient light is available in my studio, but if that is not working the way I want it to I use a torch to help control the lighting better. Torches make great tools for lighting this kind of work as the sets/dioramas are so tiny.

My ‘Toy’ series, as you might expect, is an offshoot of my smaller macro work. Normally I shoot these scenes on a desk using dolls-house props. However, I still capture them using the same macro photography setup as my smaller works (namely using my Canon 100mm macro lens). 

My Kit

Toy Portfolio

This work is definitely more comedic in nature. They allow me the opportunity to create works for the sheer enjoyment of providing a little entertainment. At the same time, maybe they raise a smile along the way. Sometimes, when I am making this work I burst out laughing! That’s normally when I realise I am on to a good idea.

When you REALLY want an Irn Bru. © David Gilliver
I said any year EXCEPT 2020. © David Gilliver
Hulk SMASHed. © David Gilliver

What’s Next?

Well, because of the repeated Lockdowns we have been experiencing here in the UK, I have been forced to spend a lot of time indoors and in my studio this past year. My light painting work feels like it has been put on hold for the time being.However, I have been incredibly busy making lots of new macro work (the Little People have been VERY busy!). As a little teaser, and if you are on Instagram, my ‘Mini-Olympics’ series launches this Friday (the 5th of March) and includes some really exciting events, like:

  • The 100mm sprint race
  • The not-very-high jump
  • Macaroni hurdles
  • The staple-chase

If you find me on Instagram, you will see a new event posted each day.

© David Gilliver. And the gold medal goes to …

I have also challenged myself to create and photograph 100 dioramas in 100 days, so far so good. As I write this blog post, I am on day 60 out of 100, so just (?!) 40 more to go! Here are a few of my favourites from 2021 so far:

Thank You

Thank you for reading my Blog feature and thank you to Stuck in Plastic for asking me. I hope that you have found some of what I had to say interesting and that you managed to take some inspiration from the photographs that I have included. 😊 

Good luck everyone with your creative journeys throughout 2021 and beyond…

© David Gilliver. Thank You!

It’s a Giveaway for 3 lucky readers

For anyone who might be interested, the interactive eBooks can be found on David’s website here: https://davidgilliver.com/product-category/books/ … However, He has also offered 3 lucky readers the chance to win a copy of the Miniature Worlds ebook. All you have to do is reply in the comments and suggest a title for his newest work (see below) and he will pick his 3 favourites.

Give this image a Title to be in with a chance to win.

Where can you find David?

You can find me online here:

Web: www.davidgilliver.com

Insta: @dgilliver https://www.instagram.com/dgilliver/

Facebook: David Gilliver Photography https://www.facebook.com/davidgilliverphoto/

Thank you again for reading my blog-post,

David

Highway out the Comfort Zone

Would you like to review a lego set?” he asked.
“Oh yes please!” I say with my greedy little hands held out.
“It’s a car” he says.
“Oh” says I.
My knowledge of cars begins and ends with “four wheels, brum brum” so to shoot the new Lego Porsche 911 was more than a little daunting. Once the box arrived though that stress (momentarily) vanished. Even if you know nothing about cars, having the box in hand, you can’t fail to be a little in awe of the sleek design.

Two different variants

The option of building two different variants in one set is more than a little exciting also! I sat and built it over two days and for the price, it’s a sublime build! The body work is super smooth and the details are spot on, even down to the working gearstick, everything is just *chef’s kiss* perfect. Sitting back and admiring the finished build, I then remembered I need to shoot it… “Ah.” For nearly ten years I’ve been so used to shooting close work in a small light box and that’s been fine for me. But trying to do justice to such a big piece was going to be a challenge.

The Porsche interior

STAGE ONE:

That evening I set up my light box and started to shoot. Within an hour I was weeping huge, manly, tears of frustration. I looked at my shots then at the previous blog posts, back at my shots. Garbage! Everything seemed cramped and you lost the body of work in just focusing on small details. So I dried those very manly tears and for the first time in a long time, I was forced to think outside of the light box. I needed more space.

This beauty needed more space

NSFW

I ended up blutac-ing up my black backdrop, cranking up the apperature and using the whole table to shoot on. Space problem solved: tick! I’ve done this before when shooting inside dioramas so was good to practice my camera settings and apply this to something a bit bigger than an action figure! Looking back at the blog, my shots still didn’t feel right though. I knew where this was going but dug my heels in and decided to get back to more familiar territory and add an action figure to compliment the car.

NSFW?

Finally some shots I was happy with! After some feedback from people wiser than I, turns out these shots were Not Suitable For Work let alone a friendly Lego blog (do let me know what you think?)

Double Trouble

STAGE THREE:

So I was back to stage one: frustrated and ready to launch my Porsche into the river.

Thinking outside the box

With the deadline looming, I accepted the inevitable, gritted my teeth and stepped outside with my camera for the first time in over three years. Well and truly out the Comfort Zone now, kids. But surprisingly it wasn’t the hellscape of twitching curtains, tutting passersby and kid’s itching to swoop in and steal my new set, that I thought it would be.

The Porsche loved the natural light also. Glowing in the sun, finally in its natural habitat on the tarmac. I pushed the zoom on my camera to the max which I’ve never tested before and it worked surprisingly well, blurring the background enough so it didn’t look like a forgotten toy left outside. The whole reason I stopped shooting outside was the backdrop of fences and lampposts spoilt every shot, so I retreated back into the comfort of the light box and things I could control. I now feel now that Spring is coming, shooting outside is a possibility again.

Look at the detail

And that’s a wrap

If it wasn’t for shooting the Porsche, I’d have never had to step outside and actually test myself. So to end on wise words you can tattoo onto your own head: ‘Sometimes “Step outside of your comfort zone” is more than just words on a cat poster.’ And if I can do it, you can too! I’d like to thank Stuck in Plastic for the opportunity to be the guest reviewer this month. And I’d like to thank anyone who made it this far for listening to my absolute tripe.
Thus ends the sermon.
James

SiPGoesVirtual 2020 – An Editorial Review

We were supposed to be in Tallinn. But this is 2020, and things just haven’t gone according to plan for anyone. And so a new plan was formulated. We were going online. 15 intrepid photographers forging on this strange world.

ShtacyP has participated in seven SiP Toy Safaris: Hamburg, London, Edinburgh, Paris, Billund, Cambridge, and now Digital!

The similarities between a physical and virtual safari

It was always going to be different from our regular toy safaris. No holding of reflectors or lights for other people. No print exchange. And no walking kilometre after kilometre to get to that next spot just 10 minutes away. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t similarities.

We still had (relatively) early morning coffee-fuelled starts (just no scrabbling to find the nearest open Starbucks). We still had safari bingo cards (#WhereIsBoris). And we still got to hang out with old friends and connect with new ones. And amazingly, we were still able to share toys with each other.

The #RainbowPatrol, passing on their favourite things to friends across 3 different time zones.

The differences between a physical and virtual safari

For this online adventure to work we needed structure. In real life safaris, we will plan to go to different locations, but largely we’ll meander across town playing it by ear, and the photos we take will just kind of, happen. This time though we had been set a series of wonderful challenges by our fearless leaders.

We had photo prompts, narratives to create, and we worked all together, in breakout groups, and individually. Shooting against the clock, so that the newspapers (Planet and Prophet) could hit their print deadlines! To make our deliverables it meant thinking fast, communicating effectively, collaborating (all those good corporate words, right Ian?) It was at times a little frantic, sometimes stressful, but hey, we were playing with our toys, how stressed out could we really get?!

ShtacyP, known for her ability to spin a yarn and tell a story about the most inanimate of rocks, became Editor-in-Chief, wrangling the outputs of her wonderful team of photographers and reporters into coherent (if laughable) stories, worthy of being printed in one of the many publications ran by Green Lantern.

Taking photos

One of my favourite things about safaris is watching how people create their photos, and then seeing them post the photos weeks later and understanding the story of how that photo came to be, where the light was coming from, why the photographer was in that weird position on the floor.

But this time around, the structure meant that photos were produced, edited, and shared almost instantaneously. We could see each other’s photos as quickly as they could be uploaded onto Google Drive (not that any of us snooped in the other teams’ folders of course…).

This process wasn’t any worse, just different. It still worked as a learning experience. Webcams were often left on whilst artists snapped away just out of shot. Tricks and tips were still shared. As were screens: “Do you like this edit better, or this one?” Every day is a school day.

The goody bag

In preparation for the weekend’s activities we all (well, depending on your country’s postal service) received very special packages in the days before the safari. Cruelly though we had to wait to open them. Those packages sat in our offices, on our desks, hidden away in cupboards, just asking to be played with.

Temptations were successfully resisted and as soon as we were allowed to rip them open and reveal the secret contents of the bags, we were off into the first of our challenges! The goodies found inside gave us some common threads that would help us tell our stories. Plus, we had been given hints about what sorts of pieces would be appropriate to pack for the safari, things that would help draw our creative outputs together.

Assessment

By the time Sunday afternoon came around, we had completed all our challenges. We had written our stories, the personal ones, and the collective ones. We had created incredible things, photos, and memories. Things that will be immortalised in hardback, should we want a memento of this one-off event. Friendships begun and firmly cemented, we logged off of the meeting, so that we could rest in preparation for our next viral marketing campaign.

Taking it easy like a Sunday afternoon after a toy safari.

As far as I am concerned the #SiPGoesVirtual2020 weekend was a resounding success. Whilst we couldn’t explore the cobbled streets in the medieval Old Town of Tallinn I think we achieved all the things I’ve come to expect as a toy safari veteran. We took photos of toys, we hung out with friends, and we had fun. Isn’t that what it’s all about?!

Little big adventures

It’s just a question of size

LEGO just released the fantastic Ideas set Pirates of Barracuda Bay.
It’s quite a big box full of bricks and minifigures and I must confess, there are stars in my eyes when I look at it.
In fact, almost every big set will do the same: bricks, bricks everywhere, and a large final build.
Large enough to make me ask myself: where would you put it?
The Batman UCS Tumbler, the Creator Mustang, Ideas Old Fishing Store, Quinjet, Airjutsu Temple, Lunar Lander, the SPACESHIP, all the Ninjago stuff, all the Star Wars ships…
All those sets are awesome, but it takes also a lot of space…

Continue reading “Little big adventures”

Now They’re Out There

Mission Accomplished

On the 25th of March, we innocently asked on Instagram, who’d be interested in reviewing some of the new collectible minifigures from series 20 for us. Some of you replied. Onehundredandsixtythree of you to be precise. We went through all the volunteers and discussed to and fro. In the end, we chose to send some surprise envelopes to fourteen of you. Some of these fourteen we knew before. Of some, we had only heard. And some were complete strangers to us but we still reached out, when after all you all got back to us.

On the fourth of April, we put the first review online. Twenty-six more posts followed. When we first asked you on IG, we seriously hadn’t thought that the interest in this new series would be THAT strong. Wow. We do want to say a massive THANK YOU to all of our crowd reviewers! You people rock! We were simply blown away by incredible pictures and wonderful ones. We impatiently followed some massive stories and fell in love with minifigures as you kept portraying them.

Meanwhile, the minifigs are available at your favorite local toystore or from the LEGO online shop.

Continue reading “Now They’re Out There”

Om Iets Aan De Wilgen Te Hangen

Welcome @lego_a_gogo

Today Willemijn from the Netherlands will share with us her thoughts about some new CMF20 minifigures, some of their their dark necessities in particular and toy photography in general.

The Llama And The Pinata Boy

The little boy with his original pinata

The pinata boy is a happy figurine. It’s very colorful and just waiting to start the party. But wait, what’s this? There’s another pinata, a moving one…

Uh-oh, better run, little llama…

I really enjoyed this llama-pinata boy combination here because I think it worked so well with the ‘live’ pinata thing going on. Ok, maybe that was a little mean. I also like the garden pictures with the Mexican boy and the llama both on their own.

Continue reading “Om Iets Aan De Wilgen Te Hangen”

Music And The 80’s

Some Thoughts From @pulup

We’ve been posting quite some articles about the new collectible minifigures series 20 as of lately. These articles came to life because we sent out some minifigs into the great wide open, so that some of you could review them and take pics to share on our blog.

We also sent some to Burak. For some time it seemed that the mail wouldnt be delivered in time to become part of this review series. Fortunately, Hermes seems to have worked his divine powers on this one and Burak got mail. Here is what he replied to us.

The Garage Band

Pulup and the Crazy Wigs!

Early 1980s, studying in a German high school in Istanbul, I was naturally introduced to German pop bands before anything else. I was particularly impressed by the New Wave genre. Alphaville‘s excellent debut album Forever Young (1984) was the first vinyl I purchased. I remember one day, after listening to Big in Japan for more than a hundred times, I decided to make music of my own.

Continue reading “Music And The 80’s”

Brand New Toy

Paul Got A Brand New Toy

There once was a boy…

This may start like a fairytale. Let’s keep it that way for a moment. Anyway, this also is a story about a boy. At this point, we don´t know the boy’s name. Let´s see what happens here in that story by @lego_men_explore.

The Boy With The Drone

The brand new toy

There once was a boy with a drone. He got it as a surprise present. It wasn’t something he’d really wished for before, but now he had it. He practised in his garden every day after school. The controls were sensitive. Just a gentle swipe to lift it up into the air. A circular motion to get the camera to spin and focus.

Continue reading “Brand New Toy”

Drrrrrumroll…..

Part Three

This will be the last part of three from Carl @carlp_photography, who portrayed fifteen out of the sixteen minifigures of the CMF series 20. (One of them is reported to have had issues at the customs. Maybe her javelin was mistaken for a weapon …) Here´s Carl for you:

Peapod Costume Girl

Green
Continue reading “Drrrrrumroll…..”