The Flow – Part I

https://flic.kr/p/mRqwpa

Last weekend I was stuck in a small city called Leuven exploring some of the secret portals they have hidden in plane sight and I was really struggling with my on the road workflow (hence the reason I did not post a blog or a quick selfie on instagram) as there is more to the flow than just point, shoot and post …

So this morning, back in The Studio, armed with a cup of coffee I decided to upload Stargate™to Flickr when my happy flow and the rest of the day was ruined.

Flickr and Yahoo decided to have a battle with my identity provider and no longer offer a trusted sign on with Google (and Facebook) or at least a big pop up told me that soon my login would no longer be possible …

And so my early morning post on Shelly stealing topic and some of my on the road workflow musings got canned and this posting turned into a little rant.

I can understand the need for Yahoo (who owns Flickr) to try to regain a piece of the identity puzzle, but why they have to enforce this on the existing (paying) user base is beyond my understanding and I don’t understand why I am forced in a yahoo email address.

There is no incentive, no clear explanation, just the need to register yet another email address I will never use. 

I do like Flickr, and I stayed away from uploading my pictures into Picasa (the Google Flickr) but given the road Flickr and Yahoo have choosen (removing the blogger integration, removing the Google Identity integration, …) it is clear that Flickr wants me to choose between the Google ecosystem and theirs on the long run.

A choice that may not be in favor of Flickr after all … 

Faking it or the art of photo editing.

One thing I learned while I was getting my BFA in Photography was that I am really bad at black and white photography. Color is my medium. And if you don’t believe me check out my pre Lego work here.

One of the first apps I looked for after a good basic editing app for my iPhone/iPad was a good black and white photo editor. I was thrilled when I discovered Noir Photo. This little single use photo app is great for quickly creating dramatic black and white photos. It has an easy to use interface that lets you quickly turn your photos from this

into this

So if you are looking to branch out with your photography and want to try to creating some dramatic black & white photos, might I suggest you give Noir Photo or Dramatic Black & White (another good black & white editor) a try. If you are like me and are black & white challenged, an app like this will fool people into thinking you know what you are doing. And isn’t that what it is all about, faking it?

~ xxsjc

Instagram as a Tool to a Better You!

Some times when Me2 and I debate we have to agree to disagree, but we rarely disagree on the value of Instagram. Of course Instagram will always have a soft spot for me because I met many great toy photographers, like Me2, on Instagram but I also developed my own voice and personal vision.

There is something thrilling about posting images to Instagram and getting instant feedback from your peers. For almost two years I was posting daily pictures to Instagram, participating in the toy photography community, looking at others peoples feeds, trying lots of different styles and generally playing around in a no pressure environment. I have posted comics, interior studio set ups, quickie iPhone photos and over edited shots as I have experimented finding my personal voice. I have also experimented with a variety of Lego mini figures to find the ones that convey what I want say. All this intense editing, shooting and looking helped me to narrow my choices and find my place within this community.

Recently I was asked how I created the image below. The hope was that I could quantify the image into a f/stop, a film speed and an ISO to show others how it is done. But really, the secret is pretty simple: take lots of photographs. Did I say lots of photos? I mean A LOT of photographs, hundreds, thousands, whatever it takes. Of course luck has its place, but with more shooting this becomes less important. After you take a million photos you will know what works and what to avoid.

Sure, knowing the rule of thirds, how to control focus, depth of field and basic editing skills are also essential, but shooting thousands of photos will get you their even faster. And having a place like Instagram to post them is a wonderful outlet to all this content you have created along the way. The feedback (or lack of feedback) you get on your photos is essential. Having a supportive community to cheer you on as you struggle with your personal vision is a pretty heady experience.

So utilize the heck out of Instagram, get involved, share your passion, meet new friends and watch your photography improve along the way. Because Instagram is a great tool to finding your personal vision, becoming a better photographer and improving your editing skills. Plus, its lots of fun!!

-xxsjc

Agree to disagree …

When my partner in crime wrote  “… if this doesn’t prove my point that photography has been rendered valueless by the sheer volume of images being produced, I don’t know what does …” I could not disagree more.

I actually would argue very strongly that the sheer volume of images and the same sheer volume of possibilities to take these images actually is the exact reason why we have this discussion and is in essence the reason why I disagree.

The mass production of crayons in the early 1900 by Binney and Smith did not turn the graphical artist using pencil and paper valueless.

Art and the artist in itself have always struggled (and embraced) and will continue to struggle with their own contempary challenges taking into the account the context of its own age (which is what we are doing at this exact moment here).

When S. mentions you can purchase a picture for 250 € all in (and I dont even want to embark on the flawed offering here and all faulty legal assumptions), we are talking about the fundamental difference between stock photography (a craft with sometimes a spark of genius) versus the art, the emotion, the engagement, the creativity, the spark of genius that is not aimed at making money at any cost and want to engage on its own right.

I am sure if I want to make money as a commercial photographer, I can work on my skills as a stock photographer and choose to create iconic photography that looks at the market demands, see what colors are hot, and play the game, … and sell. Sell my skill set and craft.

At the same time I can choose the try to become a journalistic photographer, an illustrative photographer, a snapshot photographer, a landscape photographer and work my skills or I can boldly state that I am an artist and my photography is no longer a technical craft (remember that chromatic aberration) and I am taking it to the next level where the photo is the message on itself.

An artistic statement.

So, when D. censored the art work of Daniel Josefsohn to protect the integrity of IG users he was making both an artistic and political statement. (see accompanying image) 



So I disagree with S. that volume has rendered photography valueless and it is up to us to step up and define the new standards …

New standards that do include plastic and toys, just as my good old buddy W. included soup cans of Campbells

So, who wants to join the plastic  revolution ?


Back to Square One!

I was researching 500px today in my continuing quest to find other amazing toy photographers and I was impressed by the quality of the photos presented. If you are not familiar with 500px it is a photo sharing site similar to Flickr. It also has a secondary feature called 500px Prime which is designed to match advertisers up with photographers happy to sell their photos for $250US. You can purchase royalty free usage of any of these incredible photos, which gives the purchaser the right to use the photo, in any way they see fit, for as long as they want. That is an incredible deal! 

If this doesn’t prove my point that photography has been rendered valueless by the sheer volume of images being produced, I don’t know what does. 

I think it is time to go back to square one or at least January 1. 

My New Years resolution this year was to take myself less seriously and I think it’s high time to revisit this idea. Toy photography should be (and is) fun! 

I’m open to a revolution but my revolution will need to include a fair amount of silliness and fun. And maybe, through my lego photos, I can bring a few extra smiles into the world. 

Viva la Revolution!! 

~ xxsjc

The Journey has just begun …

Just back from outer space where we enjoyed a fantastic 24 hour light show where environment and art were coming together. And so now it is time to wonder on great questions mankind and bricks alike have been asking for centuries, like where are we coming from, where are we going to and things like what is art ?

When I asked this question to Lady G. she told me I was lucky and that art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as a painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

So when Meg explained in the comments section of Shelly quest for live after IG ” … that the value of images like this are simply to put a smile on someone’s face. That’s what it does for me …” I do think that a smile is for sure an appreciation or sign of beauty or emotional power and we at least make one part of the definition.

An appreciation, a smile, a like …

The discussion then continues with Mike throwing in the other side of the discussion that likes and being popular is not what it is all about.

And I agree.

I agree completely with Mike and Banksy quote about being famous and the eternal question why one goes to a restaurant (which is after all more as just getting the basic nutrition in and the waste out) .

Now, how does one measure success in triggering this appreciation or emotional power, the smile on Meg face ?

How does one measure his or her engagement with the audience ?

How do we know we are doing something more as just pasting time away or developing our own skillsets for our own pleasure ?

And this is where likes on IG do come in to play.

It is the recognition of other people (and bricks) that what we are doing is putting a smile on their face, or triggers an emotional power within strong enough to move that tumb so slightly up to hit the like and show some appreciation or engage in the discussion.

Other people.  Strangers to us and we share our work with these people, with the world.

Not to become famous, but to be able to engage.

And there are some numbers and rules out there that give a deeper insight in these engagement ratios and some people and services are taking these numbers into a mathematical game, but if you dont try to play the number game, 500 likes on a 2.5K follower base (the Shelly example) tells you that the picture did trigger a smile and an engagement with its audience on 620 by 620 canvas.

But is that enough ?

Is 5K likes on IG the end game ?

No, and here I am completely with Shelly, we have to storm the walls outside IG and make sure our art bring that smile also inside the real house, not just in a fantastic app.

The framed in print, signed and stuck against a brick wall, triggering that smile everytime someone walks by the image.
 

Stuck In Plastic is all about that.

Taking our work to the next level of the journey …

Earth Hour™

As most of you know by now, I was stuck at the end of the runaway of a major non disclosed airport (the third busiest of planet Earth) for the bigger part of last week and was suffering major connectivity problems in our meeting room (one could wonder if this was Faraday taking protective measures) …

Shelly has been touching on some great topics going from the whole IG like debate to the inner self of what art means for all of us (being a rebel or not) and how #stuckinplastic plays a role in this …

And while I would like to take the debate to the next level (yes, I do have strong opinions about all of it) I am stuck here on the outer side of the Death Star enjoying the great Earth Hour and want you to continue the fantastic show of respect to Mother Earth that is happening now …

Continue to tag your pictures and post to #earthhour as we try to save our Planet Earth !

Banksy is My Hero!

Weird things happen when Me2 disappears into one of his top secret assignments. I tend to go off topic…like now. 


“The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Any fame is a by-product of making something that means something. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.” – Banksy


This quote was included in the comments in one of my previous post by the talented @mister_bricks. He altered the quote slightly by replacing “fame” with “likes”.  This quote resonated with me and I felt it was appropriate to revisit the topic “Is Their Life Beyond Instagram?”

I’ll be clear, I’m not looking for likes for my photos. I create them for my own pleasure. I enjoy the Instagram community that has nurtured and inspired me for the last two years. But posting pictures on Instagram can only be satisfying for so long. 

I believe that one of our goals here at Stuckinplastic is to unite like minded photographers who would like to take their toy photography to a new level. Specifically, showing them in real life. This could include displaying them at a cafe in your neighborhood, creating a pop up art gallery or some version of gorilla street art a la Banksy. Whatever or wherever our imaginations take us is fine by me. 


Let’s storm the gates, let’s create an art movement, let’s rejoice in the fact that we are brothers in arms that just happen to be stuck in plastic!

– xxsjc

Is their life beyond Instagram?

Yesterday, I was out taking photos with my good buddy Mr. S (the genius behind Bricksailboat) and we had an interesting conversation regarding our involvement in Instagram and if there is life beyond Instagram for our photographs. After some introspection (not my strong suit), I realized this is what Me2 and I are trying to find out. He is currently attempting to move our mutual fans from Instagram to Facebook or Google+ and ultimately to this blog, through his generous print giveaway. He of course has had some initially success, but I began to wonder what the ultimate end game was? 

Through my professional career I have watched photography become embraced by the masses with the advent of the phone camera. Many of these photos are distributed through social media sites like Facebook (350 million per day as of 2/2/13) and Instagram (55 million a day as of 3/6/2014) and many more never even leave the phones or cameras they are taken on. That is one hell of a lot of photos per day!! How does one even get noticed amongst this fire hose of images? Is it even necessary to get noticed? Why do we take photos in the first place? 

Me2 mentioned a Pandoras Box when we talked earlier about editing apps, but to me this might be the ultimate question: Why do we do what we do here? Or more specifically: Why do I take photographs that will (realistically) only be seen by a few friends and my family? 

Below is my most liked photo ever on Instagram and it makes me wonder if getting 500+ likes is about as good as it’s going to get? What do you think? 

– xxsjc