Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League’s New York (Trailer)

I had the pleasure of watching this documentary film recently and I wanted to share it with you. During the 15 years that The Photo League of New York existed, they nurtured, celebrated and discussed some of the greatest photographers of the day. This documentary is a veritable who’s who of photographers who were practicing at the time. These are people who wanted to change the world through there photographs. They wanted to make a difference and for the most part they were successful. 
I urge you to take a look at the trailer and hopefully find the time to watch the whole film. It is good to know the historic foundations of your passion. Many of the figures discussed in this documentary I knew of from my own photo history classes. It was inspiring to hear them discussed in context of The Photo League and it also gave me fresh perspective on this important stage of photography’s history. 
~ xxsjc

Sunday Painters (another perspective)

I can relate to +Me2  and his Sunday Painter plight. I am not sure any of us has the stamina or the time to create meaningful art on a daily basis. It is so much easier to do the laundry, cook a meal, play video games or any of the thousands of distractions we encounter daily. 

Before anyone gives up on this so called battle lets talk about what creating art on a full time basis looks like. Because sometimes I think people have a grander notion of what being an artist is. What it’s not: painting every day in your studio, listening to classical music while your faithful cat keeps you company (or insert personal fantasy of your choice here). What it can look like is thinking about what you want to make, planning out your image, gathering supplies and props and sketching some ideas in a work book. Often it means simply staying caught up on what’s going on in your field, understanding the changing marketplace and researching the past. Day to day tasks often involve organizing work, matting final images, networking, bookkeeping, meetings, phone calls and e-mails like any other grunt worker. 
Finding success in the market place is a mixed blessing. The process of creating and selling the same old same old that pays the bills can be a soul deadening experience. For most artists creating new, exciting and challenging work on a regular basis is the exception. In a way relegating them back into the category of the “Sunday Painter”.
For the working artist (or the Sunday Painter) the greatest luxury is creating art that inspires you. 
~ xxsjc  
What does your perfect artist life loo like? 

I chose this image by +Gordon Webb to illustrate another time suck that is a big part of our weird Stuckinplastic world,,,forever sorting. 

No One Ever Said This Would Be Easy

Did you take the time to listen to the TED talk suggested by +Me2 yesterday? I did and I was mildly amused by Sting and his talk. Maybe I was not as taken by it as Me2, but that can be explained by the fact I was also working.

I think it is important to realize that every artist struggles with the artistic process. No matter if you are a multi platinum musician who makes enough off his royalties to live in a chateau and grow his own grapes or the beginning photographer. The creative issues are the same if not the income stream.

So, yes we are all in similar (I will never say: “the same”) boats. The goal is to make relevant art that speaks to who ever might view, listen or read our creative works. There is no magic formula to success, I wish there was. But I do know that if you speak from the heart and are true to your own voice you will make a connection with your audience.

I think it was interesting that Sting had to go back to his roots, the ones he had been denying, to find the motivation and his voice again. Sometimes you have to go to the dark places, the places you want to avoid to do the work that needs to be done. I think the trick is to take your viewers on your journey with you, but still allow them to find themselves in what you are saying. To be personal, but still universal.

By creating honest work we will find ourselves a little closer to the answers and hopefully maintain our inspiration.

~ xxsjc

Where do you get your inspiration?

I leave you with a song by one of the bands that has inspired me the most: Cloud Cult. They managed to take a personal tragedy and create some of the most beautiful music while working through the pain.   Craig Minowa is a testament to the “Art Saves Lives” motto. Remember: no one ever said this would be easy. 


We are all in the same boat …

While Shelly keeps us updated with great pieces of literature we should all consume in order to grow our artistic self, I try to keep an eye on what is happening in the online world of TED and share some of it with all of you when I believe it connects with what we are trying to explore here.

When I enjoyed the latest TED collection I was blown away with this simple story told by a small boy from the ship yard and how his dream and determination changed his live forever.

A story that truly touched me …


” … The fact is, whether you’re a rock staror whether you’re a welder in a shipyard,or a tribesman in the upper Amazon,or the queen of England,at the end of the day,we’re all in the same boat …”

Let us know below in the comments what you think about it and if we are indeed all in the same boat.

Me2

Staying Motivated is Hard to Do

I don’t think there is any skill harder to develop than the ability to stay motivated. No matter what you are doing, taking photographs, building your latest MOC or writing the next great novel, staying motivated is hard.

It’s easy to get distracted by day to day obligations, or worse yet just quitting altogether, because creating art is hard. But there is a trick to not quitting, make friends with people who share your passion. Surround yourself with supportive excited people who like to do what you do. Get together on a regular basis and share what you’ve been working on. Geek out, it’s fun!
I know that toy photography is a rather specialized photo niche and Instagram can be a great substitute for a local photo club. It can function like the most amazing and supportive group of fellow photographers you could ever hope for. Plus by getting in the habit of posting once a day, every other day or whatever you can commit to, you will be getting better just by shooting consistently. It is also a great place to make friends who share your passion for toy photography.  
So get out there and shoot some photos with your camera, your phone, your fancy DSLR…it doesn’t matter what the photo looks like. Some days your photos will be awesome, other days, not so much. It goes with the territory. Post your photo to Instagram, get some feed back and do it again tomorrow. It’s doing the work that is important. Of course the real fun begins when you look back over your feed and see how much you have grown. 
And THAT will feel much better than quitting. 
Do you find it hard to stay motivated?
How do you stay motivated

Toy Photography…an incomplete history

I was talking with my toy photo buddy Bricksailboat yesterday about the history of toy photography. We have both tried to research this topic and have found there is very little information about this movement on the internet. I thought that now is a good time to start pooling our knowledge and writing a brief history of toy photography.

What began as a few people posting images onto Flickr (and more recently onto Instagram) has grown into a huge world wide community of toy collectors and photographers sharing and supporting their passion. I have heard more times than I can count the experience of some new member of the community say that when they came to Instagram and discovered that there were already people taking photographs, how happy they were to know they weren’t alone.

It has taken social media to bring these very far flung, disparate people together to feed off each others energy and grow this community into what we see today. Lately this movement seems to be taking on a life of it’s own. I see other photographers, like myself, showing their work in galleries. Most recently Zahir Batin who will be exhibiting his excellent storm trooper pics in Malaysia. I truly wish him well because his success is all of our success.

I remember the first images that I saw that showed me what the possibilities could be. These were by Vesa Lehtimäki, better known as Avanaut. Since Vesa has been shooting toys since 2009 I like to think of him as one of the founding fathers of our movement.

But toy photography is not only a social media phenomenon. There is already a variety of photographers showing their toy photography in the more traditional art world like Brian McCarthy. His Art-Toys and War-Toys books are incredible.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of people all over the world using toys to express themselves and create amazing art. I look forward to continuing my research and seeing who else is out there.

~ xxsjc

Who was your inspiration to take it to the next level?
I’d like to start a list of influential toy photographers, who should be on it?

Art & Fear, You Are Not Alone

While you are trying to figure out what European City +Me2 is currently in, I want to distract you with a book recommendation:

 Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orlando.

I read this book many years ago and it was helpful when I hit a few creative rough patches. I thought I would give it a read again and see if it could shed some light on many of the creative concerns I hear mentioned by my friends on Instagram. Ideas like motivation, inspiration, talent and approval to name just a few of the common themes I hear mentioned in one way or another.

After the first page, after just the first paragraph, I wanted to scream out: THIS IS IT! I don’t know how I can express to you how good it feels to read this book. It is like having your favorite, trusted art teacher tell you all your fears and doubts are ok, that we all have them. It is normal.

Since I know you are not convinced, here are a few quotes from the first pages to tantalize you:

”Artmaking involves skills that can be learned. The conventional wisdom here is that while ‘craft’ can be taught, ‘art’ remains a magical gift bestowed only by the gods. Not so.” Art and Fear, page 3.

”Even talent is rarely indistinguishable, over the long run, from perseverance and lots of hard work.” Art and Fear, page 3.

”You learn how to make your work by making your work … art you care about — and lots of it!” Art and Fear, page 6.

Pleas don’t be dissuaded from this book by the word “Art”. It is relevant to anyone who is trying to be creative, no matter if you are a painter, a jeweler, a musician or a writer. The observations in this book are for everyone who wants to be creative. So I beg you, plead with you, to go to your local book store and grab a copy of this work of sheer genius. Trust me.

~ xxsjc

If you have read this book did you find it helpful?
Are there any other books you would like to recommend that helped you with your artistic doubts?

My Unikitty Alter Ego.

Today I felt like Angry Unikitty for much of the day. Whenever I feel like this I’m tempted to post cutting remarks on various social media platforms but then I remember the immortal words of Mark Twain…

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Words to live by.
~ xxsjc
Have you ever posted something you regretted to a social media site?
Have you ever read something posted by someone else that really pissed you off? 
Do you try to be a positive influence on social media sites or just speak your mind? 

Building Community (One of the Hardest Job You Will Ever Love)

I’ve been thinking a lot about community this past week. As I have mulled over my limited time resources and the energy it takes to move any project forward, I actually contemplated shutting down Brickcentral on Instagram. It has been saved from the chopping block for the foreseeable future by the willingness of wonderful new volunteer.

Back in the early days of the social media frenzy you heard so much about “creating a brand” to sell yourself or your product. That drum beat has changed to the “build your community” chant. It has not escaped my notice that the majority of experts who extol the virtues of an on-line community are men. I think there is a very good reason for this: most women build community naturally and don’t need a name for what we already do. We just call it something else: making connections or simply making friends.

Community is an incredibly hard thing to create and maintain. It is an ephemeral and constantly shifting set of personalities and priorities. At least that has been my experience. What might be true one month won’t be what the community needs six months later. It’s a very complex friendship that needs lots of attention.

For most people delving into this community building quicksand is not a possibility; most people have jobs, families and more important priorities than creating an on line community. But when the community falls silent a hole is left. Maybe it will be noticed, maybe it won’t.

I have no answers as to the why people crave “community”, especially one as specialized as ours, yet they do. I see this desire all the time when I post on Brickcentral and the comments often include a “thank you for being here” sentiment.

I hope this doesn’t sound critical, because it isn’t meant to be. In my own experience creating, nurturing this online community of LEGO photography enthusiasts has been an incredible experience that has enriched my life immensely. I plan on sticking with it, probably longer than I should, and on the way I will keep thumbing my nose at the “experts” who talk about community building as if it was something you can do in your spare time. You don’t create friends and family in your spare time.

~ xxsjc

Do you converse with your followers wherever you post your photos?
Have you made any friends through social media?
Is creating friends and community an important aspect of your social media participation?

I seriously want to know what you think. I would love it if you could take the time to comment on the social media platform of your choice.