What kicks off your normal process for creating one of your great photos? Does it vary? Do you see a potential set or scene, and a particular toy, then connect the dots to a storyline?
It totally and completely varies. There are times when I have the whole concept already envisioned – the toy(s), the location, the caption, etc. But, more often than not, I’m kind of winging it. Sometimes, it truly is the toy I step on while leaving the house that gets put in my camera bag and gets photographed.
The most “normal” process (if you can call it that) is to have as many toys on hand as possible, have several locations to visit on a shoot, have three to four organized shots I want to get, but then be open to whatever may present itself while I’m out shooting.
Do you ever think of an image composition or title first for a particular toy, then look for a set that works with your idea?
Yes, but it generally works the other way. I find an interesting toy/location, create an image that I like, and then work out the title for it later. As an artist, I generally want the images to work on their own first. To be compelling on their own. The title for it, then, is an added bonus. Unfortunately, I think I’m failing in this because I hear all the time “The caption/title really make the picture”, but I do think the composition of the image still has to be aesthetically pleasing or else no one would want to hang these on their walls.
How do you go about selecting your toys?
The vast majority of the toys I photograph come from the ever increasing stock of toys my children receive at birthdays and Christmas, a few of them I borrow from family friends, and an even smaller few are bought specifically for a particular image I want to create.
I’m typically drawn to the ones that can bring out an emotion of some sort when you look at them. The vintage rolling bear used for the MCAC poster being a perfect example. I love that toy! I love it because when you look at it, you can’t help but to smile. That bear is just so darn happy! But, there are other toys that might have an angry expression or ones that naturally slump over due to their weight and, thus, give off a sad vibe. It just depends.
Have any of your toys ever been difficult to work with on set?
The Disney Princesses are the worst! Such prima donnas! The original Han Solo action figure has been a trouble maker as well. (Basically, it boils down to which ones have difficulty standing on their own).
Do certain images you create or particular type or series of toy resonate with the public or collectors of your work?
Yes and no. I’ve been really fortunate that my demographic doesn’t particularly skew in one general age direction. There have been times when I find my booth filled with children and others when it has been full of all single adults buying for themselves. So, I try to include toys from more recent shows or movies and then also ones that I would have played with as a kid. With that said, anything with a Star Wars character in it sells well.
When you shoot, do you want viewers see these toys or scenes as life size? How do you ahieve that?
I do try to give the toys in my images a certain sense of life and, therefore, they can come across in my photos as life size. That’s achieved by laying on the ground and zooming in really, really close. As a result, I very often come home covered in dirt and grime after a photo shoot.
Do the toys ever talk to you?
Thankfully, no. When they start to, it’ll probably be time to give this up and focus my creative energy elsewhere.
Where does your sense of humor come from exactly? Was one of your parents funny?
No, neither of my parents are all that funny. At least, I imagine that most people wouldn’t classify them as such. I, of course, find them funny… but I imagine most people find their parents funny to some degree. My mother’s grasp of computer technology, for instance, is hysterical (and also frustrating if she considers you her personal Geek Squad).
My grandfather, however, now that’s a different story. He was funny. So, my sense of humor (if it’s a genetic thing), likely came from him. It probably also didn’t hurt that my parents let me watch lots of Monty Python during my formative years.
How many toys do you own in your collection?
I wouldn’t call what I have as a “collection” of toys. To me, a collection would be what someone would have if they kept all of their toys in their original unopened boxes. Or, if they had them displayed nicely on a shelf or in a glass case, that would be a collection. Any of the toys that I might buy to be photographed, once they become age appropriate, get handed off to my children and promptly get destroyed. Therefore, it’s a revolving door…