Ed Speir IV
Specialty: Toy collector and photographer; film collector and watcher
Base of Operations: Located in Jackson, GA. My toy/figure photography can be seen here.
History: Long-time collector of toys/figures/statues; a sickness inherited from my father I believe (I would guess my father has one of the largest privately-owned toy collections in the US with 30,000-35,000 individual figures/vehicles/playsets). I am also a huge film and anime fan with over 2,000 DVDs/Blu-Rays in my collection. Married with one daughter.
1.) When did you first start first start taking photos of toys, and why?
I began photographing toys somewhere in 2003-2004 I believe. It all started with the now-extinct Spawn.com forum page. I was an avid collector of anything McFarlane/Spawn-related and decided to start photographing my purchases for the various “new haul” threads on the Spawn.com forum. I had a cheap 3.1 megapixel Kodak camera and started shooting pics of figures just sitting on my desk – no backdrop, special lighting or tripod, etc. to post on the forum. Over time, it slowly evolved into setting up shots in front of black poster board, which then evolved into getting a light tent and lighting, which then evolved into setting up backgrounds and dioramas, etc.
2.) Your photos often feature elaborate environments and dioramas. How much time does it usually take to produce one of your photos sessions?
Over time, I have built up a collection of items I use to create backgrounds/backdrops for my photos. Items consist of rocks found outside, aquarium pieces, old G.I. Joe playsets, hobby store moss and grass, styrofoam buildings, and various knick-knacks used in home decoration. None of the set-ups are permanent and they can be easily disassembled and reconfigured to get the desired setting. Set-up time usually take somewhere from five to 15 minutes depending on how elaborate the set (or how lazy I am at the time).
3.) You cover a wide variety of subjects, ranging from vintage Kenner toys to brand-new releases. What makes a toy appeal to you as a subject for a photo, and are there any toys you particularly enjoy taking photos of?
I mostly concentrate on newer toys, simply because of the amount of detail/poseability available on the more modern figures. However, I started my toy collection addiction with GI Joe, MOTU, etc. from the ‘80s, so I like to sneak a few vintage figures in when I can. The first line I became a “completist” on was the Kenner Alien/Predator series, so that line will always hold a special place in my heart. Plus, it’s fun to take a vintage figure like a Kenner Alien and place it in a nice diorama and take a high-res picture – you can see detail that you might have overlooked before. I primarily look for uniqueness in a figure, or I like to photograph an average figure in a unique way to give it a new take.
4.) What do you find to be the most challenging part of taking photos of toys, and how do you approach it?
For me, the most challenging aspect of toy photography is to stay “fresh”. Even now, I find myself sticking to one “style” for months on end, until I finally decide to switch things up. A perfect example: a couple of years ago, I was obsessed with rounding the corners on all of my shots. Fast-forward to today, and I dislike rounded corners and have not used this editing technique in some time. However, right now I am putting “texture filters” on all of my shots which is relatively new to me. I will stick with this for who knows how long, and then switch to something else I’m sure.
5.) What are some of your favorite photos you’ve taken of toys, and why?
My favorite photos are always changing, but I am particularly proud of the MOTU Classics set I have been working on for quite some time. I “borrowed” the figures from my dad’s collection and managed to shoot every single figure from the series except for King Randor (he does not have a loose one – yet) and a few of the exclusives/paint variants. You can check it out here.
Another favorite set of mine is the Clive Barker/MacFarlane “Infernal Parade” series recently taken. These are super-detailed, freaky figures and I tried to capture a spooky/vintage/carnival atmosphere for each shot and I think they turned out great. You can see them here in my McFarlane set.