I’ve got a secret obsession. Or… maybe not so secret I don’t know: The thing is that I enjoy the idea of what I’m calling “augmenting reality.”
Now here’s the thing: I’m not using the “technical” definition of the term “augmented reality.” Y’know, the kind of “augmented” that if you typed into the app store on your phone you’d get some silly camera-slash-internet gizmo that drizzled bits of informative text atop the image ‘augmenting’ what you see with directions or translations… anyhow… not that exactly. Neat, sure… yeah, but not my point.
In my mind there is kind of creative augmented reality: there is this idea of a kind of fiction or art where something very mundane and familiar (like a street or a city or a backyard) is the setting or background for something fantastical (like a story, adventure, or mythological-type battle.) It’s the foundation for a lot of clever science fiction, the kind where something epic is occurring under the noses of normal life and the protagonist is drawn into it. An example: Harry Potter. Setting, normal everyday average world of modern London (in the nineties, I suppose) but all around, hidden behind corners and obscured from sight is this hidden magical world. Our reality is ‘augmented’ with this vast and fantastical mythos that permeates everything like a layer atop the normal world.
I like that concept. A lot of the stuff I write or create somehow always invokes this concept. In fact, this kind of obsession lends it very well to a few of my overlapping hobbies: writing and photography. And that kind of thing tends to percolate to the surface on projects like this “Vulk” thing.
See, recently LEGO released a whole series of these characters called Mixels. They are a bit goofy and linked to some kind of random, probably-short-lived cartoon. But that’s not the point. The point is that a few of the characters are incredibly robust from a pose-able and expressive standpoint. They are fairly well articulated (from a joints and facial expression standpoint) especially considering they are less than 100 pieces of LEGO bits. They move their arms and legs, can hold things, balance in different poses, open their mouths and their eyes point in various directions. Generally, they fall neatly into that sweet spot on the uncanny valley curve where they don’t look at all human and are actually very cartoon-ish …yet still evoke a kind of empathy that is important in any fictional character.
So, I’ve been playing with my camera and this little red guy (who’s name, according to the package from whence he came, just happens to be Vulk) and I’ve been augmenting him into my reality. Posing him around the house and yard.
“Big deal,” you say. “So what? You’re taking pictures of a LEGO toy in your garden?”
Yeah, it is actually a bit of a big deal… at least from a creative perspective. It goes back to what I was saying before about my creative modus operandi and how layering the mundane bits of the normal world with a smudge of something unreal, fictional, or epic is something that works it’s way into so much of my writing and art.
It’s a big deal because I’ve been trying to work something like this into my photography for a while and having found a bit of LEGO that facilitates the role of the fantastical atop the everyday world of my yard (and soon beyond) is an interesting conceptual project for my summer.
It’s not unique, I know. It’s not especially clever. But it is a start of something bigger and if nothing else an exercise in overlapping both photography and fiction for which I’ve been seeking an outlet for a long time. Thus… meet Vulk. You may be seeing a lot of him this summer.
On a side-note, Monkey-See-Monkey-Do. A cool added benefit of dabbling in the strange-and-unusual is that Claire has tried to emulate. She borrowed the cameras –yes both the point-and-click and the SLR– and made her own collection using her own LEGO guy. Check out her gallery.