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Fwoosher Spolight – miAmego

The Fwoosh is lucky enough to have some of today’s best toy photographers posting in our forum. Every other week, we’re going to bring one of these talented Fwooshers in to talk about what they do and why they do it. Today, we shine the spotlight on miAmego!

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Fwoosh: miAmego, what’s the deal?

miAmego: Okay, I am currently a 49-year-old male of probably mostly-European ancestry. 5’10” with shoes on, 160-ish lbs with indeterminate eye color and hair volume. From and still living in the rural mountains of North Carolina. Married to a female for 28 years, and father of two college-age kids. I went to art school in Atlanta (just before everything changed to computers), and aside from some time on active duty as a hospital corpsman in the US Navy due to an unexpected Gulf War or two, have been employed or self-employed (mostly the latter) as a graphic artist/illustrator/cartoonist/caricature artist/Elvis Impersonator/unpaid-family-Mac IT support guy, and my hobbies include cycling, hiking, karaoke, guitar, hoarding, watching things for hours a night on a TV screen, watching things for hours a day on a computer screen, and collecting and taking photos of action figures.

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Taking photos of toys? Why?

Collecting can be a solitary pursuit, with usually only the collector having any interest in (or understanding of the appeal of … or need for) the objects that make up the collection. In the case of an adult collecting something as kid-oriented as action figures in general (and especially action figures of comic book characters), such a hobby can even further isolate the collector from any like-minded peer group. Normally, I’m fine with such isolation (hence where I live), but in the case of action figures (which I feel are more like 3-D representational art or posable sculpture) there is such a visual appeal to them, and the way they can be posed and interacted with one another, that I feel compelled to share the results with more than just me and the other action figures in the room.

Taking photos and posting them online achieves many therapeutic goals in my mind:

  1. Allows others to appreciate the scenes put together for my own enjoyment and/or amusement.
  2. People who get both the comics-based AND the action figure-based scenes/jokes are pretty limited, and posting photos to that small demographic is the only way to feel such efforts are being fully appreciated.
  3. What’s the point of amassing an action figure collection if the only people who ever see it are those who accidentally wander into your basement office or the occasional amazed furnace repairman? Showing off the individual figures (or the unGodly mess that is the entire collection) is one of the pleasures (after hunting down and/or opening up new figures) of collecting these plastic money pits. Which leads me to…
  4. Taking photos allows me to rationalize the many years and dollars and lost amount of living space devoted to such a dubious interest. I’m not just buying this to put it on the shelf and forget about it. I’m using it to create art! I’m making comics, stories, photo plays, fumetti, displays, an ever-evolving diorama of constantly changing life and social commentary! If this is a living cast of characters and props, not just a dust-collecting white elephant, providing enjoyment to dozens all over the Internet, it can’t be a complete waste of time and money, right? Right??? Please tell me I’m right.

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What sort of setup do you use to take your photos?

Despite having a DSLR, I end up taking all my photos with a point-and-shoot digital camera like my Canon SD800 IS. There is something about the built-in 4.6-17.3mm wide-angle lens that allows me to get so much in the shot from a short distance, yet still be able to place it a few millimeters from a figure for a close-up; that it is my go-to camera. Of course, a tripod is critical and I have a variety of tiny ones to full-size depending on how hard it is to get to the scene. As for lighting, I have a lighting setup for studio shots, but mostly I still end up using the overhead fluorescent lights above my main city streets diorama and just blocking some of the glare with a piece of foam core or something.

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What action figures did you own as a kid and have you photographed those toys?

Megos and Megos only. I quit collecting when the tiny, limited articulation Star Wars type of toys came into vogue. I didn’t get back into it until Marvel Legends came out with the super-articulated figures. (Although I had been sucked into the World of Simpsons before that, but never photographed them.) I have photographed the Megos a few times, usually as a joke at their expense. (I love them nostalgically, but recognize how modern collectors must view them.)

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Your pictures are very involved — there’s really no mistaking a miAmgeo picture. How did you develop your style?

It probably came from the way I draw comics and compose scenes in my head being transferred to photos of scenes I’m setting up in real life. I have great appreciation of studio photos where the simple background allows you to focus on the figures alone (I always liked Coheteboy’s pure white backgrounds, for instance) but I also wanted to shoot from extreme angles, like the way comics are drawn, from below or above and you would need a 360° background to fill in all those angles without a glimpse of furniture or ceiling destroying the illusion. So I started shooting them against somewhat realistic backgrounds. It started with bases or included diorama art at first, but then I started making things and it got kind of crazy after that. At this point, I have as many props, etc. as I can fit on the city diorama, just to keep them readily available, rather than packing them away and getting them out for a shoot, so it is just easier for me to put figures on the existing diorama than to get out all the stuff I need for a clean studio shot (which I don’t have room to keep active all the time). Therefore, there is a LOT going on in the background, but I feel that adds to the realism of a lived-in city as opposed to a clean, uncluttered backdrop.

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Where do you find all of the fantastic props you use?

Either from the above-mentioned impulse purchases, or from the bases and accessories of other figures from the past decade or so. Collecting a variety of lines can yield some diverse props that can be used in a plethora of lots of stuff.

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You use a lot of humor in your photographs. What about super heroes inspires such nuttiness?

For comic book readers, these characters have a whole history behind them that can be accessed for lampooning and parody. I loved Toy Fare’s “Twisted Toy Fare Theater” and even won a contest they had on Wizard World for making a funny comic out of the action figure photos they provided. I wanted to do something similar with today’s figures (where they relied on the humorous nature of the MEGO figures as much as the characters themselves), and the jokes just sort of came naturally. Once you start thinking of jokes for not just the comic figures, but the movie versions of them as well in our increasingly superhero-infused popular culture, it’s hard to not use the juxtaposition of humor against figures that may represent very serious and grim characters as fodder for funny or interesting photos. When Robot Chicken came out, it was great to see the concept taken a step further, into actual stop-motion animation and dialogue.

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What motivates you to keep taking pictures, and where do you see the hobby taking you?

Aside from all the reasons I already mentioned in my rambling answer to question #2, I still enjoy it and feel it gives my collecting a purpose past the obvious. When I started, there weren’t that many people doing it, so it was pretty easy to garner attention from it. Now, there are documentaries like Marwencol drawing attention to the practice for a wider audience, and in addition to shows like Robot Chicken, there are groups popping up on places like Facebook where the hobby is not only shared with like-minded individuals, but such groups offer very critical assessments of both the photography and the posing of the figures, as well as the care put into the dioramas and backdrops. Such serious consternation of a hobby I initially started as a lark can be a little off-putting, but it can also make me look back at a lot of my early stuff that I thought was good, but now seems pretty bad. With more critical eyes and seeing what others can and have done makes me want to see if I can also step up my standards from beyond what I would in the past think was good enough for what I was doing to something I feel I really put my best efforts toward. Also, if there were some way I could actually earn any money and therefore write all these action figures off as a business expense, that would be great.

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What do you do with your pics once you take ‘em?

Usually I just post them to Fwoosh (to a few appreciative responses and a lot what I imagine in my mind to be annoyed dial up users grumbling to themselves about “that miAmego guy posting a bunch of damn photos I have to scroll past to get to the next post in this thread I am actually interested in!”), and then to the archive I try to keep updated on the old Toonanet.com site I still keep active just for that purpose. If the jokes or photos are more able to be appreciated by the general public, I may post them on my business Facebook page. Otherwise, yeah, it usually seems like a lot of work for a pretty limited audience and “meh” response from the world, but apparently, the adulation and fame is not why I keep doing it.

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Thanks to miAmego! Check out more of his pics at www.brentbrown.com.

Discuss on the Fwoosh forums!

3 thoughts on “Fwoosher Spolight – miAmego

  1. Yeah, congrats, buddy! You deserve it. One of the few who can rock the Action photos and Funny photos threads equally well. Also, I want to live in your toy room…

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