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First station: Reflections

First station: Reflections

Cet article a été écrit et publié pour le blog Stuck In Plastic.

When I was asked by Me2 to participate to his little adventure, it did not take me long to say Yes. He did not say much but he invited me to write twelve articles on twelve mysterious words.

I have no idea what I am getting into, but I will play along.

 ‘Life is a journey, not a destination’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t know where I am going, but let’s put on some music, some acoustic guitar.

Hop on this train (*) with me and let’s see where it will bring us.
A journey to the unknown.
First stop: Reflections.


What an interesting word. I often make a mistake in writing it because we have the same word in French, not written in the same way: Reflection/Réflexion. But in both case, it has the same meanings: either a thought or a mirror image.

Let’s first reflect on this past year of plastic.

I really enjoyed 2016, on a personal and professional level. I had twice the opportunity to be published in the Bricks Culture magazine, thanks to this blog. I wrote two articles on this same blog and I met some of you in person during some toy photography meet-up, either in France or in Germany. I also did two exhibition where I had the opportunity to chat with people who enjoyed this type of art and people who were new to it. All in all, a great year.

But does any of this really matter?

‘One day, your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it is worth watching.’ – Unknown

Do I have an impact on other’s people life?

Well… It’s supposed to be the case at work. I work to improving aeronautic safety. But I still see people putting themselves in catastrophic situations not learning from the mistakes of others. So do I/we really have any impact. I am not sure and it frustrates me a lot.

Anyway, with toy photography, I know that I make an impact on people. I have seen it with my own eyes. When you meet people and see how they react to your work, you know that you are doing something good. Either during exhibition or reading those comments or even in the street, I always show what I am doing when people stop next to me wondering why I am lying on the ground. Those smiles and those discussions are worth it. I am proud of that.

Am I what I look like in the mirror ?

Does my art really reflect who I am?

I put a lot of effort in my pictures and I get inspired by my own life, by my own emotions/feelings when I take a picture. There’s a little of me in every picture. It’s not always easy to find it but it’s always hidden somewhere. To be honest, I am somehow of a shy person. I don’t express myself much and toy photography helps me share my feelings with the world.

Time to get some “me” time

It’s always good to look back but what will be the way forward? Let’s now dive into a reflection about the future.

Like this blog, I took the time at the beginning of 2017 to reflect and try to find where I wanted to go for this year. So, I played along and wrote some sticky notes. I have made them about several projects that I am hoping to achieve. Not necessarily about how to improve my work, but how to make it more “complete”.

I did not think of it at that time but maybe one of this goal should be to be more expressive about my opinions…

But, we will come back to that at the end of the road.

Next station: unknown, but let’s keep on going.

(*) I am more of a plane kind of guy but as I am writing those articles in the train during my morning commutes, I find the analogy more appropriate.

~Julien / Ballou34

Why? – The Origin story by Ballou34

Why? – The Origin story by Ballou34

Cet article a été écrit et publié pour les blog Stuck In Plastic et Toy Photographers.

Have you ever asked yourself why you were doing the things you do, the things that you like, the things that motivate you?

That is the question Shelly asked me. And to be honest, it is not an easy task.

It’s like asking Bruce Wayne why he became Batman or Anakin Skywalker why he became Darth Vader…

Origin stories

What is my origin story?

Maybe let’s start with some information about me. My name is Julien, I am 28 and I work in aeronautics, as an engineer, in France. So nothing directly related to photography or toys, for that matter.

I have been a big fan of Lego since my younger age and I came back to the brick a few years ago, collecting minifigures, mainly from the Star Wars and the Super Heroes universes.

At the same time, I have always enjoyed taking pictures, especially during my trips or during air shows. So I have a lot of pictures of aircraft, architecture and landscapes (some still available on my Flickr account). For me, photography is a way to escape from the daily world and flee all my problems. When I am taking pictures, I am focusing on the moment and nothing else matter.

What about Lego photography?

Well, I had been a follower of several of you for some time before I launched myself and I really enjoyed your pictures. And one day, it clicked. Why not make myself a picture with Lego? I have a camera and I have minifigures.

I started taking pictures at home, in my living room and after posting them online the feedback was so positive, it motivated me to continue. Quickly after my first pictures, I launched my first photo project, the #100_shadows project. With a goal of 100 pictures, it gave me purpose.

#100_Shadows (a small extract)

I also figured out that It could help me improve my technique as a photographer.

One thing you should know about me is that I am a self-taught photographer and I have always learned everything by myself (Photoshop, Lightroom, photography techniques…) and when I find something that motivates me (a project of some sort), I push myself beyond my limits to reach that goal.

So, to improve my Lego pictures, I started taking pictures manually (now I don’t use the Automatic mode of my camera anymore). I bought some gear (tripod, light, reflectors,..) and quickly learned how to use it.

I hate to push to the world pictures that I don’t like. I am very critical over my own work and I have difficulties to upload a picture when I am not a 100% satisfied but seeing the feedback and discussions we can have on social media, I may be too difficult with myself… If I were only listening to myself, you would not see a lot of my pictures. But with those exchanges and reading about other photographer troubles, I am learning a lot. That is something I found really interesting with this community. You can talk about your problems and learn something new everyday.

After learning to create a small studio with lighting, I decided to go further, to harvest the power of the sun and I left the comfort of my house to explore the world and take pictures outside. New challenges, new goals, new experiences.


Back to the Why?

Legography, as a project, liberated me. In my daily life, I am someone who is really shy. But, since I started taking pictures of Lego, I don’t mind lying on the ground in the middle of a crowd to get my shot. People are looking at me, people are talking to me, but I don’t mind (a little bit at first…). I have even crossed borders to meet some of you during the last Stuck in Plastic toy Safari. This was such a great moment. I can’t wait to renew the experience.

Legography is also a way to tell story and share emotions. It is often easier for me to transpire my feelings through the medium of photography rather than in person (my shy side, once again). I can create characters and have them evolve in a unique environment. You don’t see the world with the same eyes when you spend so much time on the ground.

Legography, and toy photography in general is a medicine and every one can use it. Its good for you, either as a maker or a follower/watcher. When I make pictures or when I look at your creations, it quickly brings a smile on my face. I have some pictures from our toy safari picture exchange hanging on the wall in my office. When I have a bad day at work, I spend some time looking at them, remembering the good moments and I immediately feel better. And same as HerrSM, I believe that photography helps me not turning insane but he tells it much better than I can, in his own words.

Legography can also be a disease (but a good one – if you can consider a disease can be good) which can change people. I have seen photographers completely opening themselves through toy photography, and I am an example of that. Now, I have also friends and colleagues who carry toys with them and take pictures of them during their trips.

The picture maker

Toy photography being a cure, it is also contagious. “You”, the community, gave me the disease, and since then, I have myself spread it around. Let’s continue the contagion.

~ Julien / Ballou34

PS: Thank you Shelly for this opportunity to write once again for the Stuck In Plastic blog. It is always a pleasure to write for this wonderful community.

Hamburg – My first toy safari

Hamburg – My first toy safari

Cet article a été écrit et publié pour les blog Stuck In Plastic et Toy Photographers.

Last May, when Shelly published an article about the Seattle toy safari, I noticed a little note in italic at the end of the article saying:

If you can’t make this meet-up maybe you can make our fall gathering. We’re currently exploring dates in late September for another European meet-up, this time in Hamburg Germany.

What?! The next European toy safari will take place in Hamburg?! I have to be there!

I am Julien aka Ballou34, and I live in Paris, France, so it is not really difficult for me to fly to Germany (Little did I know that I would be in the US for work that same week, so instead of a 1h30 flight, I would have to survive 14 hours in airplanes and 7 hours of jet lag…).

At that time, I was a bit sad not being able to be in Seattle and I got even sadder when reading the nice articles about the Seattle toy safari and seeing the beautiful pictures from all the attendees.

Anyway, Hamburg would be a few months later.

But why would I want to fly a few several hours for a “toy safari”?

I had already participated in several Instagrammer meetup in Paris and each time it was a good experience. You meet some people you know from the Internet, some you don’t know, some who are into toy photography and some who are not into that but start enjoying it when you lend them a few minifigs. So it’s nice but it’s only a few hours of photography together.

For me a Stuck in Plastic toy safari is much more than that.

First of all, it is several days long (I stayed 4 days in Hamburg). So you have much more time to connect with people and you share lots of experience and great moments together.

We all have that passion for toy photography, so it is great to meet people coming from different background and different countries (5 in our case – Germany, England, Sweden, Belgium and France), with different ages sharing that same motivation. You don’t know them but when you start taking pictures together, the same light start to bright among the group and it’s beautiful. People start to help each other, share some toys and advice.

Of course, in a safari, there is also the location: Hamburg, a place I had never visited before but wanted to.

Doing toy photography with a group is a great opportunity to visit a city, especially with a host like Stephan/@herrsm who really likes his city and wants to share it to you.

Side note: If you ever are in Hamburg, go visit the “Miniature Wonderland”. Amazing experience!

You get to discover some interesting spots for pictures and you are pushed by the group to wake up early to enjoy the show that the sun offers. I knew that I would not rest during that week-end (and that was not the point). Hamburg is a great city, very dynamic and with some really interesting districts. I will come back there in the future.

The magic of waking up early

As a group, you take time taking picture in a same spot, so two things are interesting to see:

  • How people are using the space for their pictures
  • How to challenge yourself to use that same space in different manners

You learn a lot from your fellow attendees. Everyone has some tips and tricks to share with the group, and even when looking at people it gives you some ideas and techniques on how to improve your own work. Interestingly enough, camera gear in particular was not really a discussion subject as you can see people with all type of cameras (smartphones, DSLR,…).

It is also really great to see how people are carrying their Lego and what they are packing for a trip like that. Everyone has its own way of doing it depending on what they are used to.

Always pack good stuff

And of course, there are the meals. A nice time to drink some beer, to discuss on different subjects and to continue playing with toy,… It is the moment when everybody talks about everything and you learn a lot more about everybody.

Based on this wonderful experience, even when the “official” toy safari was finished, the last ones staying in Hamburg stuck together to try to extend this wonderful weekend, which showed how connected you can be after a toy safari.

So did I enjoy my toy safari?

I think it transpired through my text before. It is definitely a YES.

What surprised me was that you don’t really need introduction. You see those people who you know through their social media account and it is like you have known them for a while. Of course there is the surprise of seeing them in real life, but after that, you pull your camera and a Lego from your bag, you start taking pictures and you feel like being among friends. You are among friends.

One nice moment from this meet-up was the print exchange. We brought some pictures to give to the other attendees. For this occasion, everyone selected their best work or some pictures that meant a lot to them. It is a great way to keep souvenirs from you fellow attendees.

Hamburg will now have a special place in my heart

Should I come back to another toy safari?

To be honest, I cannot wait for the next one. I may even try to get to the American one.

It is such an intense experience. A lot of emotions happen in such a short period of time that you don’t want it to stop. Great friendships are formed.

I really hope to see this “fellowship of the Brick” (to coin a phrase by our host) really soon because we have spent some great time together and now, taking pictures by yourself does not really have the same flavor.

~ Julien / @Ballou34

Scribble 1.0

Scribble 1.0

Scribble, ça veut dire griffonnage en anglais. C’est le texte mal écrit, rédigé rapidement. C’est le dessin que l’on gribouille dans la marge du cahier. Bref, c’est l’esprit de ce blog.

Scribble, c’est mon nouveau projet pour 2017, un exercice que je vais essayer de pratiquer tout au long de cette année. Après m’être consacré de manière plus poussée dans le photo ces dernières années (et je n’abandonne pas pour autant), je vais essayer l’exercice du blog et de l’écriture. Je n’ai pas de ligne éditoriale précise. J’ai envie de partager. Pas de cadre, pas de contrainte. Ce que j’ai envie, quand j’en ai envie. Je vous proposerai des nouvelles, des dessins, des photos, des griffonnages, des textes que j’ai envie de partager, des articles sur des sujets divers, bref des “scribbles”. Il en va de même pour la langue. La plupart de mes articles devraient être en Français, mais je n’hésiterai pas à vous proposer des choses en Anglais. Des “Griffonnages”, mais aussi des “Scribbles”.

En tout cas, je vous souhaite la bienvenue dans mon univers et bonne lecture.