First things first.
My thanks to all who supported this work by generally putting up with my passion for this and not thinking that I’m crazy.
So far, I’ve photographed over 40 figures from Lord of The Rings. Most of these were made by ToyBiz based on the popular Peter Jackson trilogy.
My first Lord of The Rings figure was Gandalf the Grey… If you pushed a button he would yell “you shall not pass” with impressive volume. For years Gandalf stood next to the Creature from the Black Lagoon in a corner of my living room, both unsuspecting that one day they would become photographic subjects… actors!
Yes, I often think of my toys as actors, or characters that work with me to create images tied (loosely) to the Tolkien universe… no doubt inspired by Peter Jackson and Ralph Bakshi and Howe and Hague but also by others with nothing to do with the Tolkien universe… There’s a little Ridley Scott running quietly through these images… and, of course, a little Cecil B. DeMille.
If a figure resembles the spirit of the character it portrays, I don’t care if it doesn’t totally resemble the actor in the movie. Of course, it’s nice to find a passing resemblance… people tell me that the Galadriel figure looks like Kate Blanchet… though I do not believe so. Still, people mean it as a compliment.
The various King Théoden figures I’ve photographed so far feature a strong resemblance to the actor (Bernard Hill) in the Peter Jackson trilogy. This is a good thing. He was a good king.
Sometimes it seems that if the figure looks like the actor, this becomes the focal point of any enjoyment for many grown-ups, since they’re not sure what to make of pictures of toys…
As far as backgrounds and locations, most started out as real-life landscapes from Utah and California… but they “evolved” as necessary for our project. Others were completely born from a need to provide a suitable environment for the characters to flourish.
Some of the backgrounds were even created a for their specific projects before all the main figures were available.
This location was created to represent a moment on the journey for Frodo, Samwise and Gollum. It took 3 different Gollum figures to get it right.
In the meantime, the Morgul Lord Witch King snuck onto the scene without asking. And then disappeared. He must have been looking for the ring.
Various backgrounds representing Lothlórien, were made when I had only one Elf on the set. It took months to complete the image.
Below: A gathering of Elves
I’ve also happily re-purposed some of my own misunderstood and forgotten landscapes, including some old, OLD… scenes that I shot while in High School in black-and-white with a Ricoh and T-Max 200 processed in Dektol.
Fresh backgrounds become fertile grounds for new adventures… I like the idea that our beloved characters find new challenges in new fantasies based on Tolkien and those inspired by Tolkien… that it isn’t just Middle Earth they must save now, but our modern “round” world as well…
Today, I have more actual Orcs in my troupe (8) than James Cameron had working Xenomorphs for Aliens (he had 6). Most of my Orcs are hard workers, capable of different poses for long periods of time. A few are less talented, but equally striking. Many are hampered by the Toy Biz penchant for aggressive playtime; shooting arrows and slashing motions… we can forgive an Orc for this lack of imagination.
My guess is that the Toy Biz executives never had a chance to sit on the floor with a bunch of kids and… play. Shooting an Orc arrow requires more effort than its worth. Even for an 8-year old. Most toys are scarier when you just use your imagination.