Last time I wrote here, I was talking about using photos to tell a story when you can’t capture a moment. This becomes important when I’m working with Lego minifigures that, let’s face it, tend to just stay there without a lot of inherent dynamism. So Batman v. Joker or robbers robbing or even a staged “conversation” can make all the difference.
But crucially, I think the story needs to be explicit in the photo. It’s not enough to simply put an action figure on the ground and say “Oh yes, it’s Daredevil and he’s running from the Hand and…” without anything else in the frame to fill that narrative out.
Case in point, here’s a picture I took earlier in the year.
It’s pretty, the red and green are a nice contrast and the composition is OK. But what’s actually happening in this photo? Yes, I had a story in my head, something about a noble lady going through the woods to a temple somewhere but without that, what’s really in this photo? Minifigure. Moss.
I don’t think I would have noticed this if I hadn’t taken two pictures that, despite featuring different figures, were essentially the same. Minifigure on moss. The story I told was different, the images were the same.
By the way, this is something I find frustrating with a lot of things, seeing the same cliches and tropes treated mostly the same with only cosmetic differences. In burlesque it was performers who used essentially the same choreography for most of their acts or the same set-up of “She’s an innocent little $JOBTITLE but really she wants to be $BURLESQUESTAR!” In pin-up photography it’s the same ten poses but different hair colors. In genre fiction it’s particular set ups or character types. It all adds up to a point where I can only see the cliches.
In toy photography… moss and minifigures.
Moss is great for toy photography because it serves as natural scenery at any scale. It looks right, it’s not jarring, it’s just green and lush and beautiful. It’s great.
Until you see it in almost every photo.
Which happens, especially in the Instagram tag communities that ask people to post their favorite photos of the month and you get layouts like this:
Each image on their own is fine. Seen en masse and I feel overwhelmed by sameness despite the slight differences.
Moss. Minifigure. No moment. No story. You could swap the subjects around without losing a thing.
And dammit, the most polite I can be when confronted by tedium like this is silence, which can be frustrating when I think everyone can do better or at least push their art in different directions than this.
We all love a visual art, yeah?
Then next time, show me.