'Despite the hard exterior we often sport, we are more than our gender, more than our shell, much more than what the eyes can see.'
There is an obvious and striking dichotomy with toy soldiers. On the surface, just small plastic representations of force and control. Although soldiers undoubtedly have done good things in the world, Rambo and other representations have also depicted soldiers with a strong focus on masculine brutality. Men capable of being both heroes as well as cold blooded killers.
Toy Soldiers however are just that, toys. Small plastic objects, usually sold in packages with dozens of little men, with features to small to be unique, all pretty much looking exactly the same. Although they may be holding a machine gun, it, like the toy, has no real actual power. Most ironic of course is that with no external genitals, they are also eunuchs which is the norm for most toys that represent the male form.
I still scratch my head that figures of war are seen by anyone these days as appropriate toys. There may have been a time after World War II when soldiers were seen en masse seen as heroes. After Vietnam, the Gulf War and the current wars raging Iraq and Iran, we now know there is more these simple toys cannot come close to replicating the complexity to what it means to be a soldier.
It is the Toy Soldier that forms the inspiration for the new book from SILV Photography. I was first introduced to the artist behind SILV Photography when I featured his work as a model this past June. (Snake On A Train & On The Mountain) Samuel from SILV Photography is a published writer and poet, and overall creative mind and says his main desire behind his photography is to stimulate, question and titillate the audience. In beginning to put together this feature, Samuel certainly achieved the questioning. I was instantly intrigued and drawn to his work, especially the series with the white sheet. I questioned the right way to present the images, wanting to ensure I did justice to the artists message. It all came together though when I relaxed and simply spent time with the images. Instead of trying to interrupt Samuel's words, I just let the photos, and the men within, tell me the story themselves.
'Composition and themes are high priorities. Experimentation is a great part of the creative process, and it assists when allowing the work to celebrate, expose and question ideals of beauty, gender and any other subculture within society.'
In Toy Soldier gender ideals are discussed using eight different men within the photography. The photographs are separated into two parts. The first, where each man has his own color edit, is a representation of feminine and masculine energy as it tells a story of a poem inside the book. The second part, which is the focus of most of the images shown still explores gender but focuses on the inner verus social ideals of masculine beauty.
'Each man is "nude" covered by the white sheets as all of the images are tied with the point that we are all attractive and whole in our human shell. The object they hold is an oversized "queen" chess piece, as a play on deities or Greek statues, and the piece represents the female flow within our masculinity even as it is stripped from clothing.'
'Why Toy Soldier? Sometimes life is not a box of chocolates, you do know what you are going to get. For this reason we have judged each other to make sense of things and remove the element of unawareness. In many ways we have become similar objects that aim to be the same color, the same texture, the same size, whilst in other ways we loathe or forget to celebrate our individuality.'
The message is simple, and one we have all heard since we were children playing ourselves with toys. It is also a message that has failed to truly germinate in most people, especially for some reason in America. It sometimes seems we hear, but don't actually learn. Just as one group fights to finally achieve a degree of respect and equal rights, just for being a human...another group must start a similar fight and go through the exact same thing all over again. Samuel's images, especially those with the white sheets, brilliantly depicts an equality of beauty. Regardless of whom is in, under or behind that sheet, they shine.