Like most Gen X men, in my early childhood I spent a lot of time playing with physical toy soldiers before migrating to the digitised and less innocent equivalents found in video and computer games. In truth, I cared more for the rare packets of plastic Medieval knights and swordsmen hidden on the shop shelves than the ubiquitous boxes of GI Joes or Stoßtruppen (naturally, I never bought any miniature Tommies). I suppose this niche interest was part of my emerging passion for pre-modern military history, technologies and architecture, not to mention my love of fantasy fiction and art.
In time, I developed an obsession with historical miniatures, painting figures from the Napoleonic era – since these were the only non 20th century kits I could find – assembling small dioramas or scenes out of papier-mâché; though back then I didn’t know that they had an actual name (okay, I admit it, I was a somewhat precocious kid, a challenge to my parents and an aberration to my grandparents). However, I drifted away from this hobby in my early teens, as much from a tinge of social embarrassment as from growing maturity. Though it did provide me with an easy transition into a fascination with the slightly more adult world of cinematic special effects and design. (Around the age of ten, I have a very clear memory of creating a “battle” scene using the smallest toy troops and vehicles you could buy, setting off “explosions” of sand or coloured flour using salmon-pink rolls of “firing” caps and glued matchstick heads.)
The last time I paid any real attention to the pastime of modelling was when my younger brother developed a brief fixation with Warhammer 40,000, the tabletop miniature sets produced by the Games Workshop in Britain. Thankfully his hobby and need for assistance didn’t last for too long or I might have found myself drawn into a fairly immersive world of intricate model kits, complete with supporting comics, novels and rather nice artworks.
However, it seems that there is no escaping the nerd inside. A few years ago I came across the Galactic Warfighters project by Matthew Callahan, a collection of photographs capturing carefully arranged scenes of miniaturised combat using stormtrooper figurines from the Stars Wars‘ franchise. That stirred my artistic, technological and geek interests, leading me down an internet rabbit hole filled with knowledgeable craft and photography enthusiasts, a few of whom have managed to capture some astonishing images. Then I discovered that you can now use special macro video lenses to “walk through” the dioramas you create, editing and publishing those recordings on YouTube. I mean, whats not to love about that?
So, I may well be tip-toeing back into the craft and modelling scene, albeit coupled with the use of my camera and video gear (which rarely gets an outing these days due to work commitments and business travel). Below is a little bit of inspiration, though mine – if it develops – will very definitely be focused on sci-fi and fantasy themes. Watch this space.