So here’s a story about Darryll Jones. Darryll is one of our favourite instances of the magic that takes places whence a man sets out to pursue what he recognizes as passion. He is a charming man, and a little bit silly with plenty of tales to tell. Be like Darryll. Or read about him anyway… Here’s us conversing with him about himself and how he brought a little 12” Stormtrooper to life.
1. We’ve worked a little with you before, but I think some of our readers may not be all that familiar with you Darryll. Tell them a little about yourself please.
Well, where do I start In a nutshell, I am a 41 year old South African Kid that moved to the UK with his small family about 7 years ago in search of a new life and the sun… Boy did we make a mistake, found a new beautiful and safe life, but the sun…? What is this thing called the sun. HA! Actually it’s not as bad as they make out, but I guess compared to Africa, it is kind of sparse.
I am a creative. I don’t like to pigeonhole myself into one category, I am passionate about art. About the process of creation, about sculpture, painting, photography. It all becomes one really. My background is in Graphic Design, but I love to get my hands dirty, and when it comes to photography, my knees too. I believe on getting down and dirty, and when you are photographing your mate who is only twelve inches tall, I guess it becomes a necessity. I am constantly crawling around on the floor in rivers, mud, London streets, so much so that I am often in waders and knee pads, yes, I am 41, yes, so are my knees…
2. So what sort of Photographer are you? You mentioned to me (behind the scenes) that you consider yourself more of a storyteller. How so?
I have always just had a passion for taking pictures, I am totally self taught. I think coming from a Graphic design background helped with having an eye for composition. I love art, I love how art makes you feel, and that is what I try to get across with my pictures, to invoke a sense of feeling, a story, a laugh, sadness, place. I mean, Iook at landscape photography, and whilst it is beautiful, there are only a few that have that feel to them, a lot of them just become, wallpapers, meh…
Even when I was travelling around for Tesco, taking pictures of farmers and growers etc, I tried to capture a sense of place, and a real personal feel in the images. It worked really well. I hate staged images, and even though the whole Eric stuff is set up and thought out, I don’t take a lot of time in poses etc, it kind of happens naturally, and I think it carries that natural feeling through.
3. Tell us about how Eric came to be.. well.. Eric. What inspired you to throw a pair of jeans on the guy?
Who knows really, I think it was cold out one day, and I thought shame, that plastic must be cold. He has never let me take them off, so they will remain on. I think it makes him stand out from all the other stormtrooper toy photographers, which was never the intention, it was purely accidental, and it worked. Eric came about through a long line of descendants, Martin, Lionel, Billy, over the years he has progressed from a little lego figure, to a 3 inch figure, to the black series 6 inch and finally to the damn expensive Sideshow collectable 12 inch.
4. What about some of Eric’s more memorable adventures?
There have been many, at one stage I lost him! For about 2 weeks, I looked everywhere, I felt sick, I was grumpy, I couldn’t eat, I was physically ill, as if he was one of my children who had gone missing, he turned up thankfully, he had been washed in one of my jacket pockets and was hanging in my cupboard.
There was another time, with a trooper named Lionel, on a pier out in the sea in Wales, I set him up, looking off into the sea, and I took a step back, and he blew off the pier, into the sea, about 12 feet below, my first instinct was to jump right in after him, certain death, but I stood there a while, with a lump in my throat. Even my family were distraught when i told them, because we had come to know Lionel, and you can’t just replace them, they have scars and stories.
Eric and I have been chased by dogs, nearly hit by a train and stung by nearly every freakin plant in the UK. So many good memories.
5. Tell us some of Darryll’s more interesting tales?
Life is about to get very interesting, as I change direction, having been made redundant, I can put all my energy into this thing we have created, the paintings, the stories, the pictures. Who knows if it’s going to work, but I have reached a point where I know what i am here for, to make people laugh, to do art. And I am going to pursue it, it’s frightening and exciting all at the same time… Kind of like eating a stack of cream and syrup pancakes while you have diarrhoea.
6. How would you say you have personally developed since you first began photographing Eric.
Wow, interesting question. I think since the onset of instagram. It has changed me massively! I think it created a monster. I am constantly thinking of images, constantly sourcing props of Eric, constantly sketching and writing. It has taken over every part of my life, and the crazy thing is, I am not even that much of a HUGE star wars fan, well, I am, but not to the extent that I care who shot first, or what the difference between return of the jedi and empire stormtrooper helmets. I just like stormtroopers.
I think having an audience, that is instant like instagram is, inspires you to constantly create, and when the feedback comes in and is so positive, it is like a drug. The best thing for me are the daily emails I still get, from people telling me I have inspired them to start taking pictures, people telling me they wait for Eric daily, and even colleges and schools following his progress. I am amazed by the attention he has gathered. But through it all, the process has remained the same, to make myself laugh, to just create images which make me happy. I don’t look at how many likes or followers there are, I mean, it was amazing to hit the 100k mark, and it blows me away to meet people in the street and find out they follow me, doesn’t really feel real, but you can’t let it all go to your head, at the end of the day, I am the same silly guy, making silly pictures. Looking back through my feed, the progression is intense. From simple snapshots of the little guys, to using studio lighting as I was learning with tesco, to the beautiful food shots which I progressed onto through the studio, and then combining my love for landscapes and the world of Eric with my good friend and landscape photographer Karl Holtby, who I met through Jennifer and the SIGMA team.
7. Walk us through your creative process.
I find it funny that a lot of instagrammers follow the same protocol, well, those of us who shoot on multiple cameras anyway, and we all figured this process out which at first seemed tedious, but then just became a natural workflow which consists of shooting on your DSLR, doing a few edits in either lightroom or photoshop, then emailing it to yourself, so you can get it onto your phone, and then doing a few edits in instagram before posting
Now there are other ways of doing it of course, but in the beginning, that was the way, and I still mainly do that, although I do now use my Gdrive a lot more instead of emailing it.
If I have to turn lights of vehicles on etc, I use a little app called Lenslight. Its an amazing app. I do simple cropping, sharpening, dodging and burning in both lightroom and photoshop, and then I can’t help myself editing further, using instagram’s tools.
8. Besides “The creative adventures of Eric and pals”, what else do you delve into?
Well, because of Eric’s adventures, I now sell my coffee paintings worldwide, and that is something that was borne through needing a prop for eric, I had a stormtrooper coffee mug, and I thought, eric should be painting a portrait using coffee (I had seen a girl on instagram doing a vader painting! So I got a tiny canvas and easel and done a little portrait, and next thing I knew, someone was asking to buy it, and that started me doing images in coffee, so far I have sold them all across the globe, to some really famous people and it looks like it is a direction that could take me quite far as an artist. I am updating my website and hope to be making more hand embellished prints to feature there.
I also used to paint and sell Vans shoes, through my instagram #dkjcustoms
9. What future plans do you have in store for yourself and Eric?
Well, big plans. I want to create various books, cook books, travel books etc, So I am making plans to get in front of the right people (disney) but I am first working on a few ideas to present. I am hoping it sets me off, on a worldwide tour, and I want to highlight various agendas as I travel, i.e.: clean water, environmental issues etc. Make people aware of the world around them and at the same time, bringing a smile to people’s faces. I bought a tiny motorbike and I want to travel around the UK first, just photographing landmarks, villages etc. It’s a plan to get my kit down to the smallest kit I can muster, one camera, one lens, a few props and eric. Simple storytelling with the least luggage possible
Follow the adventures of Darryll and Eric
on their website haveyouseeneric.com
on Instagram darrylljones
on Facebook Haveyouseeneric