Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us as we continue our newest series: Interview with an AFOL. In the following weeks, every Tuesday and Friday, we will be having interviews with AFOLs of different kinds. There will be photographers, collectors, builders, animators, and even bloggers! We’ll try to learn a little more about them and see how they came to love the plastic brick (or people) we all love. Some of these AFOLs are well known throughout the community, while others, not so much. No matter who they are, they are all incredible people who have at least one thing in common: Love for LEGO.
Today we have Nick Sweetman, a.k.a. minifignick on Instagram.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi I’m Nick, a 51-year-old AFOL living in Plymouth. Many of you will know me as minifignick.
How did your journey with LEGO begin?
As young children, both myself and my brother bought small sets with our pocket money and got larger sets for birthdays and Christmas. We had quite a LEGO city going on back in the day.
What about your journey with photography/building/collecting?
I first started building and uploading my creations to Flickr back in 2010. I look back at them now and can see how I’ve progressed both as a builder and photographer. I also post on Instagram and have written for several blogs in the past.
What do the people around you (friends/family/spouse/children) think about your obsession?
Quite a lot of my friends are people I’ve met through LEGO so of course they’re more than happy with it. Not sure about my wife who thinks I have far too much LEGO and why do I need to buy more? When I first started collecting after my “Dark Age”, it wasn’t as widely accepted as it is now, so for the first few years I sort of would mumble what my hobby was. But now I’m proud to be an AFOL.
What is your favorite theme?
I still love Space, but love different elements or sets from any of the themes.
Who has been an inspiration to you?
I love the stuff the guys at Brick to the Past create and have become good friends with them. The models they produce for Steam are totally mind blowing. I’d love to be able to create builds like theirs.
What kind of gear do you use for your photographs?
I use a Nikon D5600, my main lens of choice is my Sigma 10-20mm I also have a large light tent and lights which I use for my MOC photography.
Would you say you’re more of an indoor or outdoor kinda person when it comes to photography?
I love to do both, of course as I mainly build MOCs, the photographs are taken indoors. But when going out for the day or on holiday, I love checking out the area via the internet and packing a few minifigures which I think will fit in with the area. There’s nothing better than getting up early and having a wander with your camera and a few minifigures.
What kind of preparations do you make before taking a picture?
Not many really. For indoors it’s the lighting, for outdoors, I’ll just shoot away.
How much do you edit afterwards? Do you have a favorite software or app?
I don’t tend to go too crazy with the editing, mainly just sorting out lighting and colour levels. The software I’ve used for quite a while now is Gimp, it’s free and very easy to use.
What is your biggest challenge when photographing?
Getting back up after lying down to take an outdoor shot!
Where do you get your ideas?
I like to create topical builds and images, so keep an eye on the news and check if the day is an international day. Other times I’ll see a part or figure and straight away know what scene I’m going to create with it.
Any advice or tips you’d like to share? A secret of yours, perhaps?
Just enjoy yourself, make mistakes but learn from them. You will only get better with practice.
You have quite a collection. How long have you been collecting LEGO? What made you start?
I first started collecting as a child in the late 1970s. I started off with the Town sets such as 602 Fire Chief’s Car and 620 Fire Truck. These I would save my pocket money for, then for birthdays and Christmas I’d get bigger sets. I soon got into the Space theme and had many of the sets. I sold all of my collection when I was around 14, and yes, before you ask, it was a massive mistake on my part and as an AFOL I’d really love to have all those sets again. My Dark Age lasted up until 2008. We visited LEGOLAND Winsor that year and after helping my son with a set, my love for LEGO was reignited. I purchased the Emerald Night soon after and, as they say, the rest is history.
What do you collect? Sets? Minifigures? Rare parts?
Anything really, I look out for parts and minifigures that I know will be interesting to use in a build. I’ve even just bought some Fabuland figures and pieces and can’t wait to get some shots with them.
Are you a purist? Or do you collect custom figures as well?
Not at all, I collect both custom figures and custom parts. Looking back, I think it was around 2013 I started using Crazy Bricks and FireStar Toys custom stuff in my builds.
Do you build digitally before you build physically? Or make a draft of the build with random colored parts before moving on to the main build?
I just start to build and see where the journey takes me, I have large bins of parts and sometimes whilst searching for a certain piece I find another which often is a better replacement or style so the build goes down a different path. I call my style “organic” as many times it is.
Do you keep your builds? Or take them apart after a while?
Once photographed, they stay built until I need the parts for another build and then they get slowly dismantled and end up in the never-ending sorting pile.
What is your biggest challenge when building?
Finding certain pieces, especially if it’s that one part or minifigure you know needs to be in the build. I’ve spent hours looking for that certain printed tile or that minifigure’s head.
Do you have any advice for other builders? Tips?
Just build what you feel, do look at others’ work for inspiration and techniques. Build build build, but most of all, enjoy it.
And that’s it, folks! Thank you, Nick, for having this interview with us and letting us take a sneak peek into your world. As for everyone else, don’t forget to check out Nick’s Instagram page. He builds amazing MOCs and his pictures are inspirational to say the least.
All images belong to minifignick