Allosaurus vs. Ceratosaurus

I have always had a very active imagination. As a child, one of my many outlets of creativity was playing with toys. Now, lots of children play with toys- that is not new. But I didn’t just play with them, I created stories and adventures with them that sometimes lasted several hours at a time. My favorite toys were (and this probably comes as no surprise) my Jurassic Park figures and playsets. As I’m sure many of you realize by now, Jurassic Park is my favorite franchise of all time and has been since I was two years old and saw that film on the big screen (yeah, I still remember some moments of that, but that’s a story for another time.) With these toys I would often pop in my VHS copies of the movies and then get out every single figure I had and play through the entire film, scene by scene, with them. I would lower my head so that I would replicate and match the angle on screen. Then, when I would finish with the films I would create my own Jurassic adventures, creating whole stories of peril and survival then playing them out with the toys in my living room

One of my very first dios

One of my very first dios

(much to my parents dismay I’m sure.) Humans often running away from the ferocious dinosaurs created by InGen, many of which not running away quick enough. Ironically enough, the story line I most often recreated with my figures was Jurassic Park finally being opened to the public.

In 2003, I believe, we moved out to the Malone family farm outside of Kempton, IL. A year or so before my family had purchased our first home computer and I was introduced to something amazing: the internet. And on this internet I quickly realized that there were other people out there just as passionate about Jurassic Park as I was. One group of people was those found on the forum site JPToys. There, collectors and JP enthusiasts gathered to talk about the franchise as well as the toys that I had grown so fond of. But in being introduced to these people I slowly began to realize something: that these toys had value outside of just sentimental. These weren’t just toys any more but actual collectors’ items, and really expensive ones at that.

Still early in my dio career. I used a sparkler and placed it behind the fence and lit it right before I took the image to get the effects of the sparks.

Still early in my dio career. I used a sparkler and placed it behind the fence and lit it right before I took the image to get the effects of the sparks.

You want to know how expensive? Just go to eBay and look. I was inspired by others on the site to take pride in my collection and show it off in my room. On top of that I was introduced to “dios.” Members of JPToys would take their figures outside and set up scenes with them and take pictures. It reminded me of the images on the back of the boxes of the JP toys, and I was instantly hooked. One year my parents bought a digital camera for the family for Christmas and I latched on to it the following summer and took pictures left and right. Art has always been another passion of mine, and this was defiantly art to me.

I used the Dino Valley spinosaur and actually used white gas to make flames. I dug a trench around the figure and poured the gas and then lit it. It was inspired by the final spino scene in JP3

I used the Dino Valley spinosaur and actually used white gas to make flames. I dug a trench around the figure and poured the gas and then lit it. It was inspired by the final spino scene in JP3

I did this for several years during the summer months, but as I got older my “dio” making began to dwindle. I was becoming incredibly self-conscious and was

reminded several times by some people that I was a young man, just playing with toys. I’ve generally always prided myself in not caring what people think about me. I mean… it’s kind of a fine line actors and artists need to walk down. But I cared what people thought about this. I was soon going to be heading to college, and while there are plenty of people who collect figures and such who are older I was thinking that perhaps it was something that I shouldn’t do.So near the end of my high school career and in to college I had completely abandoned dio making. My art blossomed in other mediums. Writing defiantly became a facet for me, and I focused my photography on other subjects that interested me.

Then, about halfway through my college career, I took a digital imaging class with Professor Christian Mortenson at Augustana (IL.) He taught us to really go out there with our photography and try and capture things that spoke to us and to really make our own voices be heard on our projects. Find subjects and places that were unique. So, on a whim, I asked my mom to go through my figures (which I had, by then, packed away in large plastic boxes in the attic) and ship a few to me. She did, and then I took those figures around campus and took images.  And they weren’t all dinosaurs and Jurassic Park. Some were of Batman and the Joker and at least one was of the WolfMan. With

Sulfur Field

“Sulfur Field”

a lot of my early work I just went out with the figures and snapped pics, but for this project I really focused on angles and getting the lighting correct and making scenes look natural. It reminded me of when I was a child, playing with the toys in my front room and trying to captures those angles from the film. I brought these images to class, and I remember Chris being fairly impressed. He joked that the Batman and Joker one reminded him of two people cos-playing, and that the dinosaur images looked really natural and realistic- like from a documentary. I welcomed those comments with open arms, but then just sat on the images. I did nothing with them.

Later that year though there was a submission call for art for Augustana’s literary and art magazine- SAGA. I actually went Clever Girlthrough some of my older images and sent one of my early dios that still really resonates with me: a

tyrannosaurus hunting a pair of pachycephalosaurs through a “sulfur field.” The field itself is just a post-harvest corn field and I added the fumes in through PhotoShop. Weeks later I was contacted by the magazine and informed that my image had been selected to be published. My senior year I sent in a few more for thatMosasaurus SAGA mag and they were accepted as well and it was slowly beginning to dawn on me. My photos, my “geeky” toy photos were actually liked by people. People enjoyed looking at them. And not just JP fans, or comic fans. My peers were coming up and telling me what they thought of the images and how they liked them. More important than any of that acceptance though… it made me feel good. Just taking the pictures felt good. Going out, location scouting, and finding that perfect place and position for the figure and then figuring out the lighting felt right. It was fun, and it was a way to escape.

It still is. Today I’m having a resurgence in dio photography. I can attribute at least a part of it being because of the release of Jurassic World, but it’s also because it’s something I find a lot of joy in doing. I live close to a forest preserve and I will take a duffle bag of figures and sets there and spend hours setting up scenes and taking images. Yes, I get a weird looks from time to time but I genuinely do not care. I do think that college and allowing myself to grow as an artist really rex Pursuit helped with that, but also allowing myself to be more connected with my work is a major part. Also, I am realizing that I have a style when it comes to this type of photography and I am attempting to apply that to film projects I make. Setting up these scenes and moments really allows me to think like a director as well as a DP, and it has helped a lot I feel. I’m becoming more daring with some of the shots and angles I take, and sitting down and planning out each and every shot and doing multiple takes of each one. Being this type of micro photographer is helping me become more versatile.

I don’t know if anything will actually come out of my photography. Maybe someday. I’ve had a few people tell me they’d love a coffee table book of these images. My DeviantArt account has never been more alive and active, and I’ve been debating on Brachiosaurus and Gyrospherehitting up a few craft and art fairs with these images. I’m still not certain tCarnotaurus Capturehat there is an actual [paying] audience for these images, but really that’s not the point at all. You do art because you need to. It’s a part of you, and this type of photography is very much a part of me. It’s therapeutic, and fun. It allows my mind to race with creative scenarios and scenes, and at times tests my capabilities. I’m constantly growing because of it. I’m a twenty-three year old man who still actively plays with toys… and I’m damn proud of it.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s