How the Images Were Made

by Thom Magister

It seems like I have always lived in a world of miniatures. As a child I helped my father build environments for his model railroads. I carved tiny set pieces for my grandmother’s doll house and tiny pedestals for my mother’s collection of miniature china cats. Our neighbors were professional puppeteers, and as a teen I assisted in their workshop, where I learned how to joint marionettes. Now, as a former toy designer, I continue to live among 1/6-scale action figures. When I step into my studio I feel like Gulliver in the land of Lilliputians. A psychologist once suggested that doll houses were popular because people wanted to control something in a world that seemed out of control. I am reminded of that every time I pose a 12-inch figure for a photo — and realize that I’m not actually in control when the figure topples over on its own.

This book was actually inspired by my friend, editor, and publisher, David Stein, who saw the potential in a few pictures I had taken of leather-clad action figures on motorcycles. I have always had fond memories of the biker bars I hung out in back in the early 1950s and the many different leather bars through the decades that followed.

Today, long after toy designers created the original G.I. Joe action figure, there are hundreds of 1/6-scale articulated figures available from dozens of manufacturers. Current technology permits an action figure to pose in every position a human can, and the once highly visible joints are often covered with a rubber skin, thus increasing the illusion of reality.

Thanks to the Internet, I was able to find figures and clothing for every character and situation in this book as well as most of the props. I built the sets using the same tricks and skills I learned as a kid. After the sets were built and the figures dressed, I photographed the situations and retouched the images in Photoshop — often adding details that were not in the original photos.

That’s a simple explanation of how this book was created. It took almost a year plus some sweat and technical magic. And I enjoyed every moment.

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