I love animals and was fortunate enough to have a huge set of animal toys, which I fondly called the Animal Kingdom. These toys range from the mighty dinosaurs to the almost human-like apes to the human's most trusted friend, dogs. But, as childhood got over, and I stopped playing with them as I used to, they slowly started to occupy the loft and gain all the dust. And in the process of moving to a new home amidst all that was happening, most of the toys got lost or broken, taking a part of my childhood with them. So, with what was remaining and what I could find of the vast Animal kingdom, I have recreated how I used to play as a child.
The Deer Family
I had four deer toys among the Animal kingdom to play with during my childhood, of which two of them are big ones (I thought of them as parents), and the other two are small ones (Children). I always used to play with thinking of them as a family, like the big deers looking after the small ones. Not sure how, but I lost one of the big ones, and now have only three deer toys. So, here I took all three of them to my garden which is filled with a variety of plants and shrubs providing for the almost forest-like atmosphere I needed. I imagined a scenario and got to work.
One of the young deers is browsing around the green plants, but all of a sudden its legs get stuck deep inside the soil. Another young deer which is grazing at a distance, a sibling I assumed, looks at this stuck deer, peeking out of the vegetation. Both of these young deers are unaware of the fact that the parent deer, which is grazing at a distance is looking at them all the while. I composed these two images to show the relationship and intimacy that prevails among the big and small deer. It feels like the big deer always looks after the small one, no matter how grim the situation is.
I feel like this also resonates with the current situation that prevails in the world right now. That is, no matter what happens or how dire the situation gets, we need to look after one another, as a family.
A solo member of the animal kingdom, the Gorilla. I have got this small gorilla toy with both of its hands lifted in the air, in a screaming fashion, just like in the movie King Kong. I believe that this gorilla came in a pair of two, but only one remains. Since childhood, I have always loved the concept of human evolution from monkeys. Though humans are more closely related to the chimpanzees, all kinds of monkeys fascinate me when talking about evolution.
I visualized a shot where this gorilla is standing on the edge of a peak or something and screaming, kind of depicting the evolution and change. I brought out the gorilla and put it on the edge of a table up against the sky and went for the low angle. What resulted is the minimal shot of the gorilla screaming with its hand up in the air, shot from a low angle to show dominance.
How can I not shoot a gorilla in its natural habitat of a forest or such a similar environment? So I placed the gorilla in a grassland-like landscape and then introduced a harsh light at one of the corners of the frame to create a flare. I also added some foreground and background elements to create depth in the frame. The result is the image of a gorilla in grassland with sunrays flaring through the scene, creating a sense of change and evolution.
My Animal Kingdom also consists of extinct animals like the mighty dinosaurs. I got this one dinosaur toy, not sure whether its a velociraptor or a theropod. The Dino toy is in a standing position with its hands in the air. I have always imagined dinosaurs to be the first-ever creatures to exist on the planet Earth, with a sense of domination to it. So, what better way to show the mightiness of the dinosaur without involving the sun.
I set up the dinosaur right against the rising sun and went right for the low angle. I visualized and combined the dawn of the day, the rising sun to that of the dawn of the living beings on planet Earth. So, I shot the Dino with the sun directly behind it. I closed down to get a small aperture of f/22 in the camera to get the star-like flare from the sun, a good old trick I learned from a friend of mine long back. The mighty dino with the sun flaring through it shot at a low angle gave the exact dawn feel I was looking forward to.
Camel toys were not a part of the animal toys set I had. There were two camels, one big and another small one which I used to play with. Like every other toy, I could not manage to find both the camel toys or I am not sure whether I lost it. Camel, the moment we hear the word, the first thing that comes to most of our minds is the desert, the vastness, and the dry land. So, I headed right to the sandy area in my garden.
To stay true to how a desert will look, I wanted to create a similar atmosphere as real as possible. So, I placed the camel in the frame at one corner and also maintained the frame to show the vastness of the desert it is. I also made sure that there were no green plants or shrubs on my frame because obviously, it is the desert! And I don't have any cactus here at home. This combined with a tad bit of warm tone gave the camel in the desert look I was going forward to.
The Small Dinosaurs
I had these two very small dinosaurs, one in green and another in red color. They were pretty small for dinosaurs because dinosaur toys are basically pretty large in size showing the mightiness and dominance. As they were small in size, I wanted them to be a minimal part of the frame. I visualized something to show that humans, animals, and even the mighty dinosaurs are nothing but only a small being compared to the vastness of nature. So I placed one of the dinosaurs in a grassland-like backdrop where it occupied only a very small part of the frame. It was such a minimal image with the dinosaur only in one of the thirds thus agreeing with my visual of nothing is bigger than nature. I placed another dinosaur in a similar fashion but made it stand on the backside of the backdrop. I visualized the little beads on the backside to be an agricultural field, with the dinosaur walking on it. This again shows that animals, even the mightiest of creatures are nothing but small in front of nature.
One of my favorite animals of all time is Rhinoceros. I do not know why, but rhinoceros' fascinate me every time I see one. They live in a tropical and subtropical environment and also build their habitat in close proximity to water bodies. I wanted to reflect on how water plays a major role in their habitat, so I thought of capturing a shot of the Rhino with its reflection in the water.
Sheep and Horse
Sheep was not one of the toys I used to play with fondly during my childhood. Yet, it was always there by the side. Here, I have placed the sheep in a manner that it looks like eating grass off the ground.
And I also shot an image of a horse grazing in grassland with a deer in the background to provide depth for the scene.
Everyone's first car or any other vehicle for that matter would be a toy one. Toy cars are where it all started for all of the automobile enthusiasts out there. These toy cars with tiny little motors that operate on a pull mechanism occupy a huge part of everyone's childhood. Be it a small car with a motor, or a highly stylish car from Hot Wheels, they always bring out the child in us. I was fortunate to have different toy cars during my childhood, of various shapes and sizes. From race cars to a professional vehicle like ambulance or fire truck, I have played with them all.
I was lucky enough to own a set of Hot Wheels toy cars during my childhood. The set had five cars, not sure about the model or name, but they were red and green in color. They also had numbers like 3, 5, 68, no clue whether they had any meaning. It is always a delight to play with Hot Wheels cars because of the stylistic build, durability. One of my favorite pastimes is to gather all these Hot Wheel toy cars around and race them. I'm pretty sure that my fascination with automobiles started right there with that set of toy cars.
Of the entire set, one of my absolute favorites was the Neet Streeter, which is a vintage car. I vividly remember the eye-catching cyan colored car with a strong build. Over the course of these many years, only the paint on the car has worn out, but not the memory I had with it. Neet Streeter always occurred to me as a rustic vintage car. So I decided to bring that rustic feel into the image. Thus, I included a rustic bolt and a pipe to create depth in the frame. I also prefer such vintage cars over modern cars any day. So, I thought of making another picture showing that vintage Neet Streeter is superior to that of modern cars. Thus, came the second image where modern cars are toppled and turned upside down, whereas the vintage Neet Streeter stands strong holding the ground.
I have a vivid memory of buying a pair of fire trucks in a carnival. One of them was a fire truck and another was a car used by firemen. The pack also included a fireman toy all dressed up in the fire preventing suit. It is quite unfortunate now that I couldn't find the fire truck and the fireman toy. All that remains is the red car written 'Fire Chief' on it, which also includes sirens on the top. This car also has a cute little blue driver-like guy holding the steering.
I could not find a better way to depict the fire truck and its story, without including the element itself, fire. For the sole purpose of the car, I decided to include the fire as a background with the car in front of it. This also goes out to all the firemen and other people working in the first line of defense during these tough times.
No, I did not get cars from the country Japan. I had these two tiny little cars, colored orange and blue, I fondly called 'Japanese Cars'. I had no idea what cars in Japan used to look like, but the tiny cars with a switch to turn on the headlights, they gave me Japanese vibes. As I said, they both had buttons under them, which when on turns the headlights on. The system got worn out, but not the car itself.
Nothing else could do justice to these cars rather than having them placed in a Japanese set-up. So, I pulled a backdrop that shows a street in one of the Japanese cities. It had all the neon signs with it, giving off the exact funky vibe Japanese cars had. It even matched with the teal and orange color to set up for a beautiful shot of the cars.
Ride along the countryside
I am not sure how and where I got these blue and pink cars. They may look all modern and funky given the appealing colors, but they are clearly vintage cars. And also, these cars are made up of several small interconnecting parts, that join to form this car. I do not know why, but I have got a country road ride feeling along with these cars. So I pulled up a background with kind of a country road feel to it and put these cars in the foreground. I loved the result which looked like a pleasant and calm ride along the country road during the time of sunset.
In this grim situation, what is scarier is our lost childhood and the lost child in us. Even if we survive this global pandemic, we would not feel as much alive as we were in our childhood days. Isn't this the right time to take a trip down the memory lane and relive the beautiful childhood days we had with the toys? We have got all the time to wake our little selves, know ourselves better and explore all the good old days with all those little toys. It would be such a soothing feeling to take out that old big carton box of toys from the loft with pretty much the same excitement, playing with it like good old days and recollecting memories. It may sound silly, but these boxes are time machines that are capable of taking us back right to our childhood. Gather them, play with them. Stay home. Stay safe.