“I've had cameras for almost as long as I can remember,” Andrew Whyte tells me from a radio studio in Portsmouth, England. “My dad was very supportive, and a very enthusiastic amateur. And his father and his grandfather were interested in the science and the practice of photography as well.”
Before our interview even starts, Whyte’s been busy taking a few snaps of his favorite subject, a one-and-a-half-inch tall Lego minifigure. In fact, Whyte’s been carrying the minifig around with him for the past year and a half.
“I finally found a use for that tiny pocket on the right hand side of a pair of jeans; he fits perfectly in there,” Whyte quips.
The idea is that the minifig tags along as Whyte goes about his routine as a freelance photographer. And once a day, Whyte features him in a photograph, which he then posts online.
It all started back in the summer of 2012. Whyte had chucked in the 9-to-5 job in order to spend more time with his kids. He decided to make a profession out of his long-standing photography habit. But he found the only time a full-time dad could really shoot was at night, after the kids were tucked into bed.
“I wasn’t picking up the camera regularly enough,” Whyte says.
It was on a visit to the Lego store that big inspiration struck in a tiny, plastic form.
“My children pointed out that there was a camera accessory that fits into a Lego minifigure's hand. So, I built a minifig around that camera, and I started positioning him into the everyday snaps I was taking with my mobile phone,” he says.
At first, Whyte just posted the photos on Facebook. But the response was so positive that he decided to go all-in. In October 2012, Whyte (presumably with the blessing of his small partner) started taking a Lego picture every day.
He dubbed the project “Legography,” and created a webpage for it.
Not so fast, says Whyte. The life of a working minifig photographer, and his giant helper, on England’s South Coast isn’t as glamorous as it might seem.
“I shoot it live on location, so I’m embracing whatever weather conditions are surrounding us on this glorious and blustery island,” says Whyte.
“Getting the figure to stand up for long enough to take a photo is a challenge,” Whyte admits.
“And I spend a lot of time down at real ground level. The figure is usually positioned on terra firma, down on the ground, and the camera is held upside down, so the lens is as close to the ground as possible. That's what helps to introduce this forced perspective, this sense of scale that makes the figure look much closer to life-size than he actually is.”
It also, Whyte says, garners some strange looks from passersby. The question “what are you doing?” is usually quickly followed by “what’s his name?”
“I ‘toyed’ with the idea of naming him,” Whyte jokes. But in the end, he thought it was more important to maintain a bit of distance from his subject.
The results, as you can see in the slideshow, are pretty amazing. Awesome, if you’ll allow me to say so.
In one shot, the Lego minifig slips on a full-size banana peel, sending his tiny camera flying.
“It took me 19 attempts to get that right, because the Lego camera was being dropped into the shot, just out of view of my smartphone.”
In another, called Risk Assessment, the minifigure is fleeing from a crab on the beach.
“It's a lot of fun. It makes me smile when I look at it, that one. Everything turned out exactly how I envisaged it,” he adds.
Through the months, the minifig did get an opportunity to broaden his horizons. He accompanied Whyte on several photo shoots outside of Portsmouth. There are shots of him waiting for the Tube in London, and gazing up at The London Eye.
I asked Whyte if Lego had any concerns about his project, but he told me the company hasn’t said a word to him about it.
But Whyte did say that, although his project was not to meant to coincide at all with the release of The Lego Movie, the film has given his Legography project a boost. His followers on Facebook and Twitter have nearly doubled in the weeks since the film came out.
And what’s next for the Legography project?
“One of the directions I was interested in exploring was the life of other characters, because these minifigs are available in so many different guises. You can get figures that are plumbers, and dancers and skaters and almost every other walk of life. So I'd be really interested to explore that," Whyte says.