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Toy Story

2015-12-14 Still life photographer Jonathan Beer was looking for inspiration for a personal project and found it at the bottom of his son’s toy box.


Still life photography can be a lonely way to make a living. “I’m predominantly working with inanimate objects and only very rarely venturing outside,” says Manchester-based Jonathan Beer. “Sometimes it can all get a little claustrophobic and it’s important to take on a personal project to get the creative juices flowing again.” Fellow photographers had suggested to Jonathan that he needed to move out of his comfort zone by taking on a portrait shoot. He agreed. But he decided to embrace the challenge in a way that would be more suited to his commercial shooting style.


“I pretended to agree and then looked around for a tabletop subject that would be more my thing,” he smiles. “The answer lay in my seven-year-old son’s toy box. He agreed to lend me his Star Wars figures, and in return I let him help out on the shoot. It was a great opportunity for us to do something together.”


Working with a view camera fitted with a Hasselblad H3DII 39 MS back, Jonathan was able to meticulously control where his focus fell to attain a real sense of perspective in his tiny scenes. “Normally my intention is to achieve as much depth of field as possible,” he says, “but here the aim was to make it as narrow as possible and to create backgrounds that were effectively just suggestions of shape at times. Meanwhile, the extra clarity of the Multi-Shot was the cherry on the top of already amazing file quality and it’s perfect for still life work. It also compliments working with movements and view cameras very well too, as it allows me to really push the limits of the lenses.”


All kinds of household items things were pressed into service: one particularly effective background consisting of repeated circles, had its origins in a backlit Connect 4 game covered with a sheet of translucent paper.  Other miniature sets were created using sheets of fake grass and sand, more usually found on a train set.


Lighting was provided by a broncolor Flooter Fresnel attachment, which afforded a sunshine feel to the set. Ultimately the illusion was the objective, alongside freedom to improvise. “I enjoyed the chance to wind up my friends,” adds Jonathan, “while also producing some shots that have really enlivened my website. Maybe I’ll graduate to real people next time.”

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