Ich bin ein Elastoliner

2 October 2019

Over the past several weeks I have been experimenting with a project I have titled “Ich bin ein Elastoliner”. I am using small (1:48 scale) vintage German toy warriors to create tiny tableau- some funny, some irreverent. The warriors were made by a now defunct company, Hausser out of a patented plastic material deemed “Elastoline”. The title plays on President Kennedy’s famous speech in Berlin where he proclaimed in German “Ich bin ein Berliner”. While Kennedy meant to say that he was also a citizen of Berlin at heart, he actually said “I am a jelly-filled donut”. My work with these toy soldiers explores the idea of using a toy in a way which it was not intended.

Among the hundred or so detailed and beautifully painted figures, there are three women: A queen, a princess and a milkmaid. To me, the situation provides an opportunity to explore the juxtaposition of power between the male and female figures. The consistency of aggressive posturing of the warriors also provides an opportunity to play on incongruity- of size, of modern vs period figurines and of the roles of men and women.

I have enjoyed solving the problems of working with small-scale figurines. I don’t have any professional studio-lights, and am working with a single flashlight for spot-lighting. Backdrops are created using a three-sided box made of scraps of wall-board and I use colored gels to line the walls and floor. Each photo shoot takes a few hours including set-up.

I have had a lot of fun brainstorming ideas and playing them out. I like some of the results, but struggle with the straight-forward nature of the picture. The photos lack depth and are too literal. I am considering how to add depth and interest to this work and have started to experiment with alternative processes. More on that in my contextual research post.

A visual exploration of Wilful Blindness

Continuing on the exploration of the concept of wilful blindness, or the tendency for humans to ignore the ambiguous or difficult, I shot a few scenes last weekend on the shoreline of Connecticut.

This first picture is setting up for a scene called “Selfie”. The two young women facing away from the camera will be set up to seem completely self-absorbed by getting the perfect selfie shot. The woman, lying face-down on the beach, is the subject of the photograph. Her position is meant to seem ambiguous: Is she alive, drunk or dead? Unintentionally, this woman has clothes identical to the young boy who was found on the shore, dead, by Turkish police during the major migration of Syrians two years ago. Interestingly, the person who snapped this shot captured the expression of a passer-by who isn’t quite sure what is going on. I am the photographer in the back of the shot. Ironically, I am not aware that my picture is being taken in this shot.

This next shot, two people in a low-cost hotel room, is practice for a scene depicting human trafficking. In this version, the victim is on the floor and her leg is visible. The lighting proved too cheery and the the foreground too busy. I made some adjustments for the final shot which will be posted as my Work in Progress Portfolio.