mini-Andy interviewed

I recently received a flickr mail from a toy making company in the US called Happy Worker, who custom design toys for companies. They had stumbled across mini-Andy on flickr and asked me a few pretty probing questions about our favourite miniature Hero.

I believe they will be writing a blog post about it soon, though I'm not exactly sure when it will come out. Here's a sneak preview of the questions and my responses on behalf of the little guy.

#1. People seem to like to take pictures in different settings, what I would like to know is why do you do it? What’s your motivation, what prompts you to photograph this little toy critter in your photos?

A1 - The idea for mini-Andy was initially educational as I was a teacher in a high school in Spain. The idea for mini-Andy came from a birthday present my students made for me, which was basically a miniature version of me. Flattered, I thought it would be nice to give something back to them, so I decided to take the joke a little further and sent them off with the toy that they had made whenever they went on holiday or visited famous people.

So initially, mini-Andy was like a class mascot, a little character that the students could relate to, to stimulate class discussion and bridge the student-teacher divide. As I'm quite an unorthodox teacher, the students thought it was quite cool and we would sit and create stories together featuring the character. I'd sometimes use him to explain complex scientific phenomena and my students would bring him away to meet people they knew

This was quite cool, cos it meant that using an intermediary we could explain to each other things that were important to us, without someof the boundaries that inhibit pupil-teacher communication.

#2. Taking pictures of toys is a big deal these days and there are a whole bunch of flickr groups dedicated to ‘non-gnome travellers’ and ‘toy travellers’. Why do you think this is? What do you think motivates other people to take pictures of their own toy?

A2 - I think that social networks, digital photography and the internet have played a huge part in the explosion of interest in travelling toys. With so many people on facebook gloating about where they have been, I think that people have become kind of sick of seeing their friends in exotic locations with smarmy smiles on their faces, and people have perhaps become sick of taking those photos too. I guess there's a bit of embarrassment about having travelled to all those place in some cases, not so much "embarrasment" but a conscious pang that you shouldn't be so smug.

Travelling toys however - that's a different matter! If a toy appears in 10 countries in a year on a blog instead of a human that's a little more socially acceptable. The toy develops a personality that people connect to and sees things that we as humans may not, because everything is BIG and ALIEN to the toy.

Because mini-Andy is so small, you can get away with foreshortening camera tricks and taking photos of things that would otherwise be quite inane and dull, because next to mini-Andy they look big and exciting! For example, I would never have taken a pic of myself next to these objects - They just wouldn't have made for interesting photos. But when mini-Andy stands next to them he brings a sense of scale and other-wordliness to the whole thing.

#3. Some people consider their toys to be muses, companions, or even stand-ins for loved ones not around at the time. What do you think the relationship is between people and their toys, and how do you think this affects the many photographs of toys? What do you think your relationship with your toy is or what do you consider it to be?

A3 - mini-Andy is perhaps a mouthpiece or additional personality. If you read the Batman comics you may be aware of a villain called Scarface/Ventriloquist. The character of the ventriloquist and his psychotic wooden dummy is intriguing. Initially, you suspect that the psychotic ventriloquist character is living out his sick fantasies of being a gangster through the dummy, but many of the writers of Ventriloquist/Scarface play on the idea that actually the wooden dummy, carved from a gallows is actually the one in control.

mini-Andy, although less sinister, is a similar dichotomy. When I write mini-Andy adventures on my blog I always write in a very specific way (as Scarface the doll speaks in his own voice) and the kids relate to the stories (as do my friends who have taken him away on trips too)

Then, when it comes to their turn to take mini-Andy away on trips, they too write in the same style. It's not like I ask them too, but people have read the style and imitate. Or perhaps it's mini-Andy really writing through them...

Who knows

So in many ways, the toy dictates the agenda over time, establishing his own personality. This personality has, at least for me, been strengthened by the group of writers, children and adult that I have had writing on the blog.

#4. Of course every place has a different meaning for everyone, but does taking a toy in that place make it any more meaningful? Does it give it a unique flair because it feels like a more personalized experience? Also, what about the toy – does it gain meaning from this as well, being able to house many memories and experiences in such a small object?

mini-Andy is made of papier- mache and is VERY brittle. The act of taking him to a place and keeping him in one piece is in itself a huge commitment and it was only the dedicated students who took him, knowing that. Whenever I've taken mini-Andy to a place and spent ages trying to prop him up on his crazy uneven legs it's always put my mind into sharp focus.

Just as when I first got a camera, my eyes began to see the world differently (i.e. I began to frame things in my mind and consider that perhaps the world was made of pretty pictures waiting to be taken), when I take mini-Andy out, my mind sees stories waiting to be told of high adventure and miniature underdog heroes.

The stories that are waiting to be told merely need the characters to play the part and mini-Andy fits the role.

I guess that having a miniature version of me around lets me see the world twice, once through my eyes and once through the eyes of a miniature Swashbuckling hero made of papier mache.
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