Announcing an amateur collection: Forces of Photography highlighting #ForcesofDestiny dolls
“The choices we make, the actions we take, moments, both big and small, shape us into Forces of Destiny”
I’ve always been mesmerized by toy photography, especially Star Wars toy photography. The way it breathes life into these pieces of plastic and stirs our imaginations captured my interest immediately. In fandoms such as Star Wars, it allows us to create new scenes or recreate old ones in our homes or back yards. I never imagined I’d try my hand at it. “I could never do that!” I’d say to myself. Yet here I am, posting shots that I spend hours visualizing, planning, creating, and editing.
If you keep up with “The Twittah” or online Star Wars communities in general, I don’t have to rehash the criticisms of the new web series “Forces of Destiny” and the “Adventure Figures” that accompany them. And if you don’t, just think about the comment section of anything posted on the internet remotely related to featuring women. Yup, that. Not surprising of course, but disheartening.
I’m a big fan of these shorts. They feature the bravery, the intelligence, the tenacity, the determination, and more of the numerous admirable qualities of the ladies of Star Wars. “Adventure Figures”, as Disney calls them, are accompanying this series and a large portion of fans have been, well, vocal about their distaste for them.
After purchasing my first (and what I thought would be my only) Forces of Destiny doll, Ahch-To Rey, I carefully opened her packaging over about 10 minutes, trying to preserve as much of it as I could. This odd feeling came over me, and I realized something…I didn’t grow up with Star Wars (crazy, right?) and if you don’t count Funko figures, this was my very first Star Wars toy! In addition, I was completely enamored to have something specifically made and marketed to me as a female in Star Wars fandom.
After freeing Rey from her plastic prison, immediately I finagled her into a The Last Jedi poster pose, snapped a picture, and excitedly sent it to a friend. “You should take her outside!” they said. Hm. That could be fun!
So after getting both Sabine Wren and Jyn Erso figures, opening them in a similar delicate fashion, I awkwardly walked with two dolls in-hand through my neighborhood with my camera to the gritty, desert-ish section of the development. Luckily, I had already played and practiced positioning them into poses that I felt embodied their personalities. Feeling rather exposed as a 25 year old woman setting up dolls in the Lothal-like landscape, I snapped some photos and rushed back to my house to edit them.
A few lighting changes and I was in love with these photos and how much fun it was to take them. Carefully balancing these figures, crouching down on their level to give them their “realness”, it was a rush! Pretty soon I found myself investigating ways to enhance them by searching for examples of toy photography and watching YouTube tutorials on how to create cool effects in more advanced photo editing software. I posted them on Twitter the next day and was taken aback by the response.
As that was going on, my Jyn Erso got an upgrade after fumbling along with some editing videos. Before and after below:
The rest of the week I was dreaming about different dolls and setups, and how I could pose them to either capture some of my favorite Star Wars moments or even my own head canon. I went online to search for more Forces of Destiny photography and…didn’t find much. Loads of Stormtroopers, Kylos, droids, and other figures, but the number of images with Forces of Destiny figures (and Star Wars women overall), was extremely disproportionate. Honestly, I was surprised at first. Yes, they are new, but the figures are much higher quality than I originally expected. I thought experienced or even amateur toy photographers would have already exhausted a lot of ideas I had.
Upon reflection, I think this is due to the less than enthusiastic reaction to the Forces of Destiny series and figures announcement. It’s a shame, because both the shorts and the dolls have a warm place in my heart and many other fans would agree.
So! I’ve resolved to start a series called Forces of Photography highlighting these dolls and attempting to bring them to life. I’m beyond amateur, but I’m having so much fun putting these together and would love to share them with others. I’ll be posting my “behind the scenes” photos as well to show how I’m developing my shots and all the crafty fun that goes into these. I really hope you enjoy them.
My next idea hatched from my own head canon: Rey’s Discovery. Since the introduction of Porgs to The Last Jedi, I and many others have wondered…where the heck were these cute little things as Rey was hiking up to Luke? Did she rest along they way? Did she see any of them? In my mind, I like to imagine her discovering a Porg nest before encountering the adorable creatures. This could be as she is walking up the steps and takes a break or even afterward when the island is no longer hiding from her.
I planned out all the things I’d need and headed to the craft store. I purchased everything for this shot as well as a few others I have planned out for the future for about $25 to give you an idea. Many of these will be reusable for future images, so I’m very excited about that! In addition, crafting for these photos has been SO MUCH FUN. Ok, moving on.
1) Ahch-To Rey
2) A bag of small eggs
3) A small bird’s nest
4) Two bags of rocks
5) A bag of moss (FYI, it kinda stinks. Currently keeping it in some sandwich baggies)
I was running around on Force Friday not only looking for a specific figure for my S/O, but I was also getting giddy in the craft store and sending pictures to my friends of all my scores.
Here is a before shot to give you an idea of how much editing went into this. I really wish someone had taken a video of me racing against sunset as my rocks toppled over time after time. Again, I really have no idea what I’m doing. I downloaded free GIMP software and just started watching tutorials on YouTube. It’s honestly been fun to learn!
My next scenes (new stuff you haven’t seen if you don’t follow me on Twitter, my handle is @ShelBB8 if you are wondering) were recreations of the first Forces of Destiny short: Sands of Jakku and starts off with Rey rescuing the adorable astromech in The Force Awakens.
Sands of Jakku
For this, I purchased Jakku Rey, which does not come with a BB-8. I could have used the BB-8 that comes with the Ahch-To Rey, but I ended up using Bryan’s Sphero since the scale is about right and it’s a much higher quality version of the droid. I also needed a nightwatcher worm, which I haven’t seen anywhere, so I needed to make one. For this, I simply crafted him from some toothpicks for stability, tape, and lime green/bright red Play-Doh.
1) Jakku Rey
2) Sphero BB-8
3) Play Sand (You can find this at your local hardware store or even Walmart)
4) Silver car sunshade (to reflect light onto Rey’s face)
5) Plastic netting (I ran around looking for stuff in the fish tank area of stores but didn’t find anything. I ended up using the netting that my Ahch-To rocks came in! Yay for waste reduction!)
For the Nightwatcher Worm
6) Red and Green Play-Doh
8) Packing tape
Seriously, one of my favorite parts of this was making my nightwatcher worm. I sat down in front of my computer, created a base of toothpicks and tape, and molded him out of the neon doh.
I got a little sunburned taking these pictures, not going to lie. It was over 110 degF and here I was frying like Gamorrean bacon, on the ground with my camera, and cursing the sweat falling into my eyes. Otherwise known as having a blast. Huge shout out to my partner in crime, Bryan, for toughing it out with me. We definitely got some strange looks as neighbors slowed when they drove by to try to see what these weirdos were doing.
In retrospect, I wish I would have perhaps created some shade for myself so that I could focus more on the shots. I should have picked a spot with a less complicated background and taken more time to stomp down some of the grass. But hey, live and learn. I was really out of my comfort zone when editing these. I know that I’ll see all the glaring imperfections, but I’m trying to enjoy them anyway and I hope you do as well. I’m a novice and if you have any constructive criticism, I am beyond open to it, so don’t be a stranger!
Here are some before photos:
Long story short: I have “officially” decided to highlight the Forces of Destiny Adventure Figures in periodic posts called Forces of Photography because I feel they have so many stories to tell. Even if there wasn’t a mild distaste for these dolls, I’d be photographing them anyway because I’m really enjoying this hobby.
I hope you share these if you like them and as always, I love interacting with other Star Wars fans. Have suggestions on how I can improve? Please let me know! Have an idea for a scene or just want to geek out over Forces of Destiny/Star Wars? You know where to find me.
Thanks for joining me on this journey, and MTFBWY.