Daily Mini Interview: WORK, Figuratively Speaking by Derrick Lin

Derrick Lin’s WORK, Figuratively Speaking

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Do you remember the very first miniature-centric scene you staged?

The very first scene I created was when I was so busy at work and my vacation seemed so close and yet so far away. I created a miniature marathon finish line and a miniature guy collapsing right in front of it…

What scale of miniature figures do you primarily work in?

I primarily work in 1:87 (HO) scale.

What is your favorite type of miniature photoshoot to create?  

About three years ago, I noticed even though we pretty much (over)share everything on social media, people rarely share their workplace frustrations. Seeing no proper outlet, I decided to challenge myself to tell the visual stories of the little moments at work we typically hesitate to express.

My way of overcoming the stigma of being seen as unprofessional is to focus on the thoughts of feelings we have and use miniature figures as the “little voices in our head.” I started using the figures to act out the scenarios in a comical and exaggerated way. Using an iPhone and my desk lamp, I started my Instagram series. It gives me tremendous pleasure when I successfully convey the idea and punch line with a very relatable common scenario and of course when the photo turns out great.

I have been very fortunate that my series has been featured on media around the world. I was even more fortunate to receive a book deal with international publisher Rizzoli. The book creation process was largely similar to my Instagram series posts, but the challenging part was I had to keep the Instagram series active while creating additional 100 scenes, working on sponsored projects with brands such as Chipotle, Entertainment Weekly, and Disney and at the same time managing a cross country move (from Columbus, OH to Seattle, WA) and working on a full-time job. Looking back on the project, I am very proud of myself for pulling everything off. I was extremely thankful that my publisher was very understanding.

How can fans purchase the book? 

My book WORK, Figuratively Speaking is available via most retail channels. It is also available on Amazon.

Please give me your honest book review!

What is the most challenging aspect of your work with miniature figurines? 

First and foremost is gravity! I very quickly realized it is extremely difficult to arrange and erect miniature figures on small area or surface. After three years, I have become a lot more patient than I used to be. The other challenge with working on miniature photography is the scale. It is hard to focus on the figures and plan the scenes and make sure everything is in the picture frame. I definitely learned a lot from my project.

What’s your process like? 

(I love this question!) In every post I do, I always make sure I have the scenario, the figures, and the caption ready before I start the photoshoot. All three elements inform and support each other in teasing out the idea (the ah-ha moment when a viewer understands the joke). I almost always start with the scenario.

Advice you’d give to new photographers? 

Trust your own vision and stick to it. You will continue to refine and soon your work will shine.

Favorite miniature photo you’ve taken?

Oh, it’s very hard for me to pick a favorite as every picture has a story (the inspiration and how I created the shot).

So far in 2017, the most memorable one has been the rendition of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. One day I just told my coworker sitting next to me that “I’m going to do it!” and I spent the next eight days straight calculating the angles, creating the props, and shooting the photo. The process was exhausting but also invigorating.

What inspires you? 

I am inspired by “perspectives.” Not just camera and the scale of miniatures but also the ability to find the positive light in any situation. My series is all about perspective and finding humor in every mundane situation.

What sort of miniature scene or photograph would you love to stage in the future? 

I think in terms of “mood” and “feelings.” My series spans across many emotional territories from mischief, frustration, anger, annoyance, sarcasm, melancholy, etc. I realize there are many layers of emotions and scenarios in the notion of “working.” I would love to explore more of it. So far, I do photos when I encounter certain scenarios. Maybe I will have more new perspectives to visualize as my career advances.

Why miniatures?  

Besides the connection with my series that I touched on earlier, I am very passionate about details. Miniature instantly draw my, and many people’s, attention. You want to see the intricate detail of it. You want to believe the miniature world exists. It’s a fascinating world.

What’s to come from Derrick Lin? 

Hard to say… My little project has brought me a series of miracles and adventures that I never would have imagined possible. I will continue to produce little scenes of my honest (relatable and hopefully, hilarious) thoughts and feelings. I will pick the projects that best match my vision and bring them to life. Stay tuned!

Other activities you enjoy? 

I love to doodle and draw. I actually do a lot of sketches and caricatures.

Anything else you’d like to add? 

This may be personal… but before this project, I used to be a very very shy person with very little confidence. Ten years ago, I quit my engineering career and moved to the States from Taiwan to pursue both a career with creativity and a more confident self. My Instagram project was the first time I only listened to myself and stayed true to my own vision. I was beyond flattered when I saw the responses from around the world. It has put me on the world stage and I was pushed to express and grow. It has given me more than I had ever expected. I have said it a lot but I am truly grateful for the kind support everyone has given me. Their warmth has carried me on my creative journey.

WORK, Figuratively Speaking by Derrick Lin is out now! Get your copy here. Derrick currently lives in Seattle, Washington and his hometown is Kaohsiung, Taiwan. To see more of his work, follow along on Instagram or Tumblr.