When it comes to wielding a camera, Jefferson Bongarthner’s Toy Photography is out of this world. And he has some tips on how you can take your own illustrative skills to infinity and way beyond.
The Brazilian artist better known as @jrbonga on Instagram, combines his love for Disney, Pixar and more with a keen and creative eye to create stunning, captivating and heart-warming images. On his Instagram you’ll also find behind-the-scenes looks, DIY tips and lots of fun stuff. Give it a look here!
We recently chatted with jrbonga about some of inspirations, favorite subjects to shoot and more.
Over to you, Jefferson!
How and when did you get started with Toy Photography?
I loved drawing and after some time practicing and studying, I wanted to share my drawings with friends and family and I started looking for a social network for that. That’s when I found Instagram. From the beginning my profile was always called @jrbonga, but initially I only posted photos of my drawings.
Browsing the social network I came across some photos of toys and found it interesting. Always a big fan of Disney, passionate about animation, those photos of toys aroused my great interest. After many searches, some contacts, I discovered that those photos had a name and were known as toy art, the art of making photos with toys. At this moment I abandoned the drawings and dedicated myself to embark on this new universe but the first task was to draw a strategy of how to make the photos.
A big fan of Toy Story, I realized that I could use the character Woody as my main character and my photos would be focused on putting Woody in scenes of our day to day to connect with people and show them our daily lives in a different and playful way.
For a few months I researched the Woody character on the internet until I found the perfect doll and it was in the first half of 2014 that I had the opportunity to buy my first Action Figure and start my photos.
What are some of your inspirations?
As I said, some of my inspirations come from scenes of our day to day, routines that we have all the time, where I put some characters performing these tasks in a fun way.
Some other inspirations come from the animations themselves mainly Disney-Pixar, where you can take a lot of ideas and put them in the scenarios and compositions that I can do with the characters.
What do you love about it?
I believe that the great magic of making photos with action figures is to awaken in each photo the creativity, the playful thinking and the child that exists within each one of us.
Another thing I love, are the connections we can make with people from all over the world, they can share their techniques, learn, share their art, experiences and thus build new friendships.
How would you describe your style?
I believe my style is more playful and even more childish. All my photos bring something fun and joyful. I don't like to take pictures of fights, fights, but rather cheerful photos that can get laughs out of whoever is watching them.
I’m very inspired by Disney-Pixar animations so I think my style is very similar to this universe.
Do you have favorite subjects or characters that you like to photograph?
Yes, I have some. In the beginning the total focus was on the characters of Toy Story. Today in the collection I have some other characters from other universes that I use to compose the photos, make the interactions and make the photos even more fun and with a wealth of detail, but despite today having some other characters, the Toy Story class remains my focus and the characters I like to photograph especially Woody I believe Woody is a character that can be compared to anyone.
Although he is a cowboy, I can put him in several scenes of our daily lives and this makes people connect with him because they see in him himself in that situation, different for example from another hero that it would be more difficult to have in real life.
How long does it take you to complete an image from the idea to the final product?
Making a photo, it seems a lot of faces just put together some items, take a picture and put it on social networks but goes far beyond that. It all starts with the idea and the creative process. First I look for inspiration, scenes, imagine the photo already ready and then I start thinking about how to do all the montage.
I think about the characters, the accessories, the setting, the lighting. After that I start the process of assembling everything and this part is one of the most difficult hehehe.
All my characters are still in their boxes and then I have to take them, take them out of the boxes and do the assembly of everything and then this is the difficulty because after assembling everything I have to save everything again hehehe, but it is part of the process right. After separating everything I need I assemble all the scenery, the poses, the details, accessories and lighting.
Next comes the part of making the photo and looking for the best angle of that scenario that I set up, looking for the best way to capture the expression of the characters and details.
Today between starting to set up the scenery and making the photo, it takes me at least 2-3 hours, then I still have the time between selecting everything and then saving all the material and after the final photo we still need to treat it to adjust its colors, contrasts and present a great job to the people who follow me on social networks.
To make a good photo, at least 1 day, between starting and finishing everything.
Are you a collector? If so, what do you like to collect?
I believe that when I was little I was a collector but I had no idea what this actually meant, because I had several figurines, toys, albums, but today, older and as more knowledge about this universe, I believe that yes, today I can consider myself a real collector. Today I am a collector of action figures and with these figures that I collect, I make my photos.
Do you have any advice for those looking to get started in Toy Photography?
Yes I do… First, don’t get attached to having state-of-the-art cameras to make your photos. A good photograph comes from the composition, the details, the pose, the message you want to pass on to other people.
Joining all these elements, it is possible to have a great composition that can be captured by a cell phone for example that will give you a great result. Another tip is that you do not need to have a state-of-the-art action figure costing hundreds of dollars. A toy with a cool expression, a fun toy, can be incorporated into a scene and give you a super fun image.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that we might be forgetting to ask?
All this work that I do today, comes from great persistence, study and consistency. I started the photos in 2014 and today there are almost 9 years doing the photos. In the beginning, the photos were simple and with the passage of time they were getting richer in detail, composition.
This persistence helped me to improve every day the photos I make and it opened great doors for me to do work with big brands and companies, where there were more than 40 brands and companies that I can make photos with the Toys representing these organizations.
I had the opportunity to do several photographic exhibitions in major events, shopping malls and spaces dedicated to exhibitions.
I was also able to make great partnerships with giant companies and brands in the toy segment, meet friends around the world and write two e-books teaching how to photograph toys.
But despite all this, the most important thing is to never give up. It’s learning a little bit every day, looking for references, mirroring yourself in people and artists you admire and over time your art will improve every day more.
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