The Black Ops Toys Artists Corner is where we focus on people in the 1/6 hobby who make amazing art out of 1/6 scale action figures. Oftentimes you'll hear that toys are to be left brand new, in the box, in order to be worth anything at all. But we believe that taking these 1/6 scale action figures out of the box and painting, weathering, gluing, sanding, cutting, stitching and photographing them makes them more valuable to us (THE ARTISTS). The figures are more than just pieces in a box, kitbashing artists make the figures come alive. These are the artists we focus on.
Daniel is a professional photographer living near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. For the last 15 years he has worked in advertising as a graphic designer and photo retoucher. About five years ago, he bought his first SLR camera to record he and his wife's pregnancy experience and take those precious newborn pictures. Soon taking photos became a fun hobby and about three years ago, Dan started a photography side business.
Dan considers himself an artist/photographer first and then a collector of 1/6 scale action figures. “I see places and think of photos, scenes and angles in my head,” he explains, “then [I] come home and sketch things out while looking at my collection to see who could be cool to use and how to pose them.” Once it all makes sense to him, he grabs the robots/figures, the sketch and the plan and he drives back to the location to shoot the photos.
“So yeah my collection is really more like the props and actors to me than anything else but they sure look cool in my office!”
I asked Dan when the idea to shoot 1:1 photography with 1:6 scale action figures first struck him. He explained that his first ever 1:1 toy photo is the one with the robot holding the balloon in a field. It was a spur of the moment shot. He drove around one Saturday evening and saw a beautiful corn field with a cool tree in the middle. It was a perfect landscape shot for a human model, but there was a construction sign warning drivers that in less than two days the road to this field would be closed for almost a year.
With no time and no “human” models to take photos of, Dan thought how lucky Hollywood movie directors are to have computer graphics artists to create characters and aliens and insert them into the films that they shoot in real locations. “That's when I looked at my first and only collectible [toy] I had at the time,” he says, “and saw the chance to save the photo I had in my head and probably make it even cooler now with a freaking life-size robot!”
That was about 30 photos ago and Dan is still thinking about and shooting new photos in new places all the time. He loves doing it and you can see that in his photography. What amazed me from the first photo I saw was that you cannot tell where the toy begins and the scene ends, because the pictures are perfectly molded together and everything blends.
My assumption was that these photos were done using a green screen, but when I asked Dan he said he's never used them. He's also never done any film or stop-motion action shots. He explains that he would consider green screen work if he was doing movies, but it isn't necessary for the photos he's taking now, nor is it necessary when retouching the photos later. Dan is already carrying in a lot of equipment to abandoned buildings and remote locations to take these photos; like his camera bag, accessories, a tripod and a box of robots and toys, so not dragging around two more stands and a large green screen is easier for him.
Dan's family has been supportive. They see how excited he gets when he finds a great location and creates a new idea. Or even when he finds a new figure or robot that he has to have in his collection. “They're pretty happy I have a hobby that I really enjoy,” he says. He's also very excited to share the hobby with his daughter now that she's older and they can plan photos of her interacting with the toys in the scenes; like they did with Ambush at the park pushing her on the swings.
Dan's favorite project so far, and the one that is most special to him, is the robot with the balloon in the field because it started the entire photo series and his toy collection. As far as an actual location shoot that was Dan's favorite, it's the photo of the robot with the machete in the abandoned barn. He took this photograph on a VERY windy day. Since he was inside an old barn in a wind storm, the creepiness of the old wood cracking during the wind gusts and the loud random door slams felt like shooting on the set of a supernatural film. It added an aura to the photo that Dan still remembers.
When I asked him about current and future projects, Dan said he has about 10 photos that he's shot, but not started the retouching. He also has at least another 30 ideas sketched out but not shot. “So yeah, my series will be on-going for a while which is cool with me.” It's cool with us, too.
Dan does sell his work, because clients hire him as a freelance photographer to take specific photos and/or to retouch existing photos for their own projects. He has never sold any of his personal photos as stock photography. He has contacted Ashley Wood (3A) and asked for permission to sell his 3A robot photos as prints, but he can't see any other company letting him do that. Especially since he has Star Wars figures and GI Joes in some of his photos.
As for other hobbies, besides photography, Dan does build and paint plastic models. He hasn't used any of his creations yet in any of his 1:1 photos, since he only recently started. His plan is to get a nice collection of vehicles, weapons and buildings at various scales ready to go for upcoming photos to be used as his background props and tell interesting photo “stories.” Dan has also repainted a few Nerf guns to look more realistic, so that he can use them as real life-size props for any of his projects.
If you are interested in any of Dan's prints for purchase, the link to buy his photography is http://www.danielpicard.com/buy-prints. You can also find him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Daniel-Picard-Photography and his web site at www.danielpicard.com.
The 1/6 Artists Corner questions and answers from Dan:
- What is your favorite movie? The Matrix is too cool-looking not to be my fav - you can probably pause the movie anywhere and it would be a great photo... and the acting/story were great as well. It wasn't very funny though, so for that I'd pick 40 Year Old Virgin as my favorite comedy.
- What is your favorite holiday? Halloween is pretty cool - it gets cold here during that time so kids wear coats over costumes and it ruins the look but it's still a cool holiday.
- What did you want to be when you grew up? A comic book artist and that changed to an architect in high school.
- What profession/job would you never want to do? A maggot farmer - not quite sure why this job even exists but just a few of those little maggots in a trashcan on a hot day gross me out, so I can't imagine working around millions of them everyday.
- What was the last music concert you attended? Pearl Jam last summer and it was amazing!
- xBox360 or PS3? Between these two it's the 360, but mine has only been a DVD player for almost a year now - too many other things to do than video games and watching television.
- If you were a weapon, what kind of weapon would you most want to be? I always liked those ninja swords, so I'll say a katana but machetes are pretty sweet-looking too.
- If you were a menu item at a restaurant, what would your entree be called? The "One Cheat Meal of the Week" Club Sandwich with Fries.
- What is your favorite curse word? F*ck in English, Colisse in French - depends what I need it for
- Do you have a Zombie apocalypse escape plan? I took a lot of photos at our local Cold War Bunker a few years ago and they still use some of them for promotional projects, so I would love to see them remember me and open the huge doors when I start banging on them. If they pretend nobody is home then I'd go ahead with Plan B... which right now would consist of me running back from the locked down Bunker to my truck and driving away to Plan C. I sure hope I know what the heck Plan C is by then!
Dan's Photo Gallery: