At first blush, it’s simply a lovely, moody black and white photo of one of Toronto’s back laneways. Slick wet pavement reflects the classic industrial buildings typical of the city’s downtown. A veil of gauzy light gives the photo a timeless feel while a cluttering of garbage and recycling bins speak to the alley’s modern function. And then, you notice it. Something so perfectly integrated yet totally out of place pops into view. Yes, it really is Han Solo frozen in carbonite just propped up against the wall next to the bins.
A new series of photos from Toronto-based photographer Thomas Dagg imagines what life in the city would be like if characters from Star Wars lived among us. AT-ATs roam the street while TIE Fighters circle the sky in formation. Luke Skywalker rides a Tauntaun amid a terrific winter storm and Jawas rummage through bins like a nighttime urban scourge. Ewoks inhabit the animal enclosure of a small urban zoo while Darth Vader suffers the most Toronto of all possible Toronto experiences: a soul-sucking streetcar commute.
According to Dagg, the series is an homage to his childhood. “I used my prized toys from back then to composite into scenes and situations that I vividly remember imagining as a kid. I really wanted to convey the beauty of the uninhibited imagination of a child,” says Dagg. “The Star Wars original trilogy (cough… the only trilogy… cough) was the first major creative spark that eventually inspired me to head down the road to becoming a professional in the creative industry. I wanted to pay tribute to the movies and the power they had over me at that young age and so this photo series was born.”
Dagg had action figures that he knew he wanted to included in the series and shot photos specifically to suit the imagined scene. “When I saw something that matched the way I remember imagining things as a kid, I’d take a photo of it,” says Dagg. Once that photo was taken, he would match the lighting and shoot the toys in his studio.
In his work as a photographer, Dagg says he’s drawn to subjects that have a cinematic feeling. “I’m really drawn to storytelling so I like each frame to feel like it’s part of something larger–even if it’s just a single stand alone image.” He also says he prefers the subtle to the more obvious, something that’s evident in his Star Wars series. “Each image is more rewarding and holds (at least my) interest longer.”
The main thing Dagg wanted to convey in these photos, he says, is that it’s not just pop culture embedded into a real-life setting. “I wanted it to remind people of something they once had as a kid. It might not have been Star Wars, but I think all of us have something in our childhood that was super vivid in our imagination; it’s a beautiful thing.”