East-Mountain

“Welding” by Christoffer Östberg

Why?

Why do I spend the majority of my free time photographing small pieces of colourful plastic?
I first tried the ultimate answer to any question and realized 42 wouldn’t cut it at all (although going Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with LEGO is definitely a challenge I have to visit someday, without panic). At first this question may have seemed easy enough and the answer self evident, but looking deeper, there’s nothing simple about it. What are our personal reasons for taking photographs? The answer is different for all of us. It can be as simple as love, a story that needs to be told, or a way to revisit childhood.
I have only been active in LEGO photography for a year now, and still my reasons have changed during this time.
My wife is a professional photographer and so I have always had her support and knowledge. I have also found many talented and inspiring photographers out there. Even though I have changed the way I photograph, Vesa Lethimäki will always stand as a source of inspiration. I promised always to challenge myself in photography and find new ways to play with these bricks, to cast away the innate limitations and bring them to life, sometimes with the help of the four elements. Especially close to my heart are those pictures involving fire and natural light. It’s about not having control of the situation, acting within a limited time frame with the camera to capture that which is unpredictable, be it fire, wind, water, or earth. What I appreciate about the unpredictable photographs is that they capture a moment in time, impossible or almost impossible to reproduce, triggering a realistic cinematic feeling.
Alexander Rodchenko said, “One has to take several different shots of a subject, from different points of view and in different situations, as if one examined it in the round rather than looked through the same key-hole again and again.” There are endless perspectives on the simplest of objects, and all of them tell a different story.
But there are other reasons besides the joy of drowning figures or setting them on fire. The main reason still stands: I am a father of two kids who love playing and being creative with LEGO. Much inspiration is drawn from them; the imaginary mind of the young knows no boundaries.
I found that even though I strive to make all photographic effects in front of the camera, with as little post-processing as possible, my goal now, almost a year later, is to express my emotional response to the scene. This has led me to modify the image captured by the camera. If I did not alter the image, I would be showing what the camera captured, not what I saw and felt in my head. Even so, I still work more with the camera rather than post-production software.
There is a story behind every image, and it is a great feeling when my family and I decide to frame one of them and hang it on the wall. The images may seem uninteresting to people, but to me they are a reminder of what ideas spawned in my mind and what emotion stirred them to life.
So why do I keep doing this, day in and day out, sacrificing sleep and mental health. I think George Bernard Shaw said it best: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.I don’t want to grow old.

“Mono Wheel” by Christoffer Östberg

“River Crossing” by Christoffer Östberg

The Long View

Unlike +Me2 I am not ready to let go of summer and head to frozen Pluto. So before I rush head long into the future, I have one last summer post to get out of my system. Please bear with me. 

A little souvenir we picked up at the gift shop nestled in some freshly planted moss. 


I have a hard time separating my artistic life from my every day life. The overlap is so great it can be hard to differentiate. I don’t need to be a good artist to be an engaged mother or visa versa. But sometimes my two selves come together in unexpected ways.

A few weeks ago my kids and I took a road trip to Portland, Oregon to visit my brother-in-law who is working there for a couple of months. We decided to meet at the Portland Japanese Garden a place none of us had been before. My son and I were awe struck the instant we arrived.

We were the worst guests possible as we excitedly pointed out that cool bamboo fence, were awe struck by the amazing water features, admired the use of white crushed rocks, checked out the incredibly pruned Japanese maple trees or exclaimed at the reflections on the water. You get the idea. 

Did I tell you about the moss? OMG, the moss! Entire carpets of the lovely stuff…under trees, growing on rocks, growing everywhere! The garden is a beautiful, serene and wonderfully spiritual place. It is one that both Noah and I want to go back to and view during the different seasons. There is much to explore in this truly special place and we babbled about it all the way home.

The next day Noah and I started transforming our own backyard into a mini Japanese garden. We trimmed trees, pruned shrubs, hacked at vines and created a nearly blank slate to work from. We also hauled bags and bags of debris out of our yard. Then we scampered off to the nursery for moss and shade plants to help us realize our vision.

We still have to add a few rocks for accent, build bamboo fencing (harvested from our own bamboo) and create paths to protect our existing moss. But we are on our way. Of course we will need to be patient, it is going to take a few years for this project to start taking shape. But we are the patient types. 

You are probably wondering what this has to do with my photography. In addition to exploring my city through macro photography I also take many of my Lego photos in my own yard. I consider our hard efforts in the last few weeks as an investment in my own personal outdoor photo studio. Maybe a little more curated than it once was, but there will still be plenty of lovely moss and rocks to create interesting set ups.

And like all great art projects, we are taking the long view. 

~ xxsjc

What was your favorite photographic related memory from this summer?
Do you plan your photos hours, days or years in advance?

Pluto

Pluto Explorations

What better to do on a Sunday afternoon than taking a hitchhike across our Universe and enjoy a brisk walk into the deep snow blizzards of Pluto.

While Pluto is considered a dwarf planet I did not bump into Fredo, his Middle Earth Companions or any of Snow White Seven Friends but was reminded of another Legend when facing the snowflakes.

A Legend that has been exploring the snowy fields of Hoth long before I got suited up and embraced the ice cold planes of Pluto.

A Legend who has many young Padawans out there looking to step in his footsteps and become the Master one day  …

Was I trying to be one of the young Padawans today when I took this #selfie out in the deep snow ?
Did I seek the glory and fortune some has looked before ?
Was I acting like a copy cat ?
Or did I just took a selfie in the snow ?

Most interesting questions one asks himself when out and about in the ice cold and temperatures are truly below zero (on yet another planet owned by another Big Inc, not the one of the ice cold zero drinks).

A question our Legend himself asked as well not that long ago.

It seems we are all about questions these days …

Questions on how we are defining us as being stuck in plastic, one snowflake at a time …

Me2

Old Traditions and Workflows Alike

Dansbana
Dance Floor

This morning I woke up with lots of energy, a boost of coffee and a long list of things to do, you know, the here and now.

Unlocking The Studio, switching on the lights and with a few clicks ready to enter the Lightroom to make some great epic post processing and push some digital awesomeness into the world of bits and bites when my eye was caught with the latest post of Shelly and her sound bite when grumbling over breakfast and bacon with egg tempera;

“That’s also to say that usually – but not always – the piece you produce tomorrow will be shaped, purely and simply, by the tools you hold in your hand today.”

While Shelly obviously was thinking about her breakfast and having a dip, my mind drifted off from the tasks at hand (taking some new pictures, finish a few other pictures and get our latest stuck in plastic blog post out as I discussed the night before with S. and then distribute it to magnitude of different platforms …)

The tools at hand …

The new tools these day are really the digital workflow, from taking the picture to sharing it with our target audience (remember the Sunday family afternoons when grandpa got out his slide projector and we all enjoyed a 36 PowerPoint avant-la-lettre  for an hour walk through ?).

Target Audiences …

Big names like IG, Flickr, G+, FB, Picasa and even Tumblr and Twitter are flashing by …

How are we connecting with our audience, what is our audience, why are we doing it … all these questions flashed along and the question of focus and purpose was added to mix.

Long story short, my original post I was planning to write here will need to wait while I am sorting out my electronic tools of today and get rid of some noise that distracts me of producing the piece of tomorrow …

Stay tuned …

Me2

Art Reflects the Present

The other day I was feeling my usual bout of anxiety and doubt… Why am I doing this? My work is crap! You know, that kind of stuff. So I turned to my trusty copy of “Art and Fear” to find some words of consolation. I found words of encouragement and so much more.

In particular this passage really struck a cord:

“That’s also to say that usually – but not always – the piece you produce tomorrow will be shaped, purely and simply, by the tools you hold in your hand today.”

Of course the author was thinking more along the lines of painting materials like egg tempera, oils and acrylics. But can’t the same analogy be made for the rise of toy photography?

We are surrounded by plastic toys in the form of cheap imports from China, give aways at restaurants, movie tie ins and of course whatever we might have saved from our own childhoods. It seems that with all of these toys clambering for our attention something was bound to happen.

When the ubiquitous camera phone was combined with social media (especially Instagram), a movement was born. I know we are a niche group, and a small one at that, but the creativity exhibited by some of these photographers is awe inspiring. There is craftsmanship, social awareness and special effects being employed to create some very memorable images. 

I’m certainly not implying we are producing anything new. We have already seen with our previous guest posts that there are always pioneers in any field. But what we have now is a far greater range of styles and toys being used.

We will be hearing from a few of these new breed of toy photographers in the weeks ahead as we explore this amazing and creative movement we affectionately refer to as being Stuckinplastic.

~ xxsjc

Are there other influences that have created and shaped this toy photography movement? 

Past, Present and Future …

 

Exposition Universelle – Paris 1900

What started off as an innocent question on why we are shooting plastic has turned into a deep dive of old dinosaur emotions and recognition of our roots and influences. Most probably we will also be taking a little detour back to the future before we are done.

The Eiffel Tower for sure laid the foundations for the “Mechanics Made Easy” play sets found in 1901 and must have played an inspirational role in why some of our LEGO bricks contain holes in the middle.

Nobel prize winner Sir Harry Kroto actually goes as far as blaming the UK railway failures on the younger generation growing up with plastic (read LEGO) instead of perforated metal (read Mecanno).

We don’t want to turn this into an epic discussion of which toy is best (remember those epic Nikon vs Canon discussions) but stay on the why we are shooting plastic.

Do we look for capturing that perfect simple plastic smile?
Do we want to create epic movie scenes in our own cellar ?
Do we …

We will continue to search for the why, in our past, our present and our future …

Shooting plastic, one brick at a time …

Me2

Avanaut

“The First Attempt” by Avanaut

Why do I take photographs of Lego? That is a question that took me by surprise a couple of weeks ago. I realized I had never asked myself that question before. Finding the answer was not easy, and it took a brief conversation with my wife for me to see it.

I am photographing Lego because I am a never-was movie director making a living outside the movie industry. That’s what my wife said, and it pretty much sums it up. See, I always loved movies. Star Wars, obviously, was huge, but many others as well, classics and contemporary. As a kid I made some movies myself with my dad’s Super-8 film camera, but film was expensive and my dad did not allow me to hack the camera’s filmport to produce a widescreen format picture. My movies were not very good; a widescreen wouldn’t have improved them, but still. I would build miniature sets and models to shoot, but the miserable camera could not focus on anything, since it had no macro. I grew up watching great movies and reading all about them. As a teenager I subscribed to Starlog, Cinemagic, and Cinefantastique. Cinefex, Premiere and Empire came along a little later. I’m soaked with that stuff; it’s in my DNA. I sometimes dream in 2.39:1.

That was a long time ago.

When I stumbled into photographing Lego Star Wars in 2009, I quickly connected to those times when I dreamed of making movies. I soon incorporated into the photos many of the cinematic ideas I had toyed with in my youth: widescreen, smoke, aerial particles, snow, blizzards, tight closeups and stories — the short stories that I like to write to go with the photos. I think this through via cinema; even my “Leftovers & Alternatives” album in Flickr is allegoric to a DVD “deleted scenes” extra. Lego is a perfect medium for all this. It’s playful, and there’s so much to choose from. You can have a minifigure on a piece of a coloured paper and still make a strong photo with that; yet there’s everything from a coffee cup to the Death Star to add, if you like.

This soon became a sort of creativity outlet, a free turf to express ideas I could not use in my day job as an illustrator. I see my photographs as single-frame plays I can write, produce, direct and shoot, but with characters and concepts I grew up with. In a way, I’m exploring an unfulfilled career path, but with Lego and present day tools, like the DSLR camera. It’s old but it’s new. It’s perfect!

~ Vesa Lehtimäki

“Breaking in the Tauntaun (Revised & Rejected) by Avanaut
“Last Ship to Rendezvous Point” by Avanaut

 

The Best Laid Plans…

Today did not go according to plan.

I was supposed to work; it’s Monday and normally I am chained to my desk. I had a great blog post I wanted to write about Big Inc plus my to-do list is a mile long. But I didn’t do any of that.

I played hooky.

Or to be exact, I grabbed my mini figures, camera and headed into the mountains for a lovely hike with a friend. The day was beautiful, the photo gods were smiling on me and I even got back in time to pick up my son from school. It was a glorious day.

I guess this is why I don’t work for Big Inc.

~ xxsjc

Stay tuned, tomorrow we will post another amazing guest blog on the universal question of  “Why?

LEGO Inc.

As most of you know Me2 and Crew won the fantastic The LEGO Movie Scandinavian Master Builder Challenge organized by the great folks over at Warner Bros and LEGO and as part of winning this epic challenge, Me2 and Crew got invited to visit some awesomeness in LEGO land.

Signing in to visit the top secret production plant where LEGO is born.

And awesomeness it was.

The crew signed in to visit the top secret production plant and got a guided tour (#nopictures) into the nirvana of LEGO, Prod. KOM One, the Billund Production Plant.

A most amazing tour that just gave a fantastic insight in the clutch power and drive for quality which truly represents the company motto det bedste er ikke for god, or the best is just not good enough. A motto introduced by the founding father Ole Kirk Christansen a good 80 years ago and it still hold strong today.

The exclusive LEGO Ideas House …

Our guided VIP tour continued to the LEGO Idea House, giving us an exclusive insight in the history of the Company.
From the wooden ducklings and fire trucks over the plastic cars to the brick.
The brick which is the cornerstone of the LEGO world.
A brick which did not change fundamentals since its patent on January 28, 1958.

… giving fantastic insights in a long and rich history …

While our time was limited in the LEGO Idea House and we most probably could have spent a few more hours discussing the rich past of this fantastic company (yes, we are biased) I do feel confident we are contributing with our photography (or should I say legography) to the next chapter of the rich history of the LEGO Company, one picture at a time …

A history of being Stuck in Plastic …

Me2