Star Wars is on everyone’s mind this week as the world awaits the much anticipated opening of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in theaters everywhere on Friday, December 20 (or Thursday night for the superfans). With that in mind, we recently chatted with accomplished Sag Harbor toy photographer Scott Smith, whose detailed recreations of iconic Star Wars scenes, using 3.75-inch action figures, have gained a large Instagram following in a short amount of time.
A devotee of George Lucas’ original trilogy of films since childhood, Smith debuted his @nostalgiabox375 Instagram account in February of this year, and has already picked up more than 2,600 followers who eagerly await his next image recalling moments from Star Wars: A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi.
Smith was born in New York City and lived there for 30 years before moving out to Sag Harbor in 2006. He had loved the village as an annual summer visitor since the early 1980s, but finally decided to make it his permanent home. He’s studied engineering at Villanova University, illustration and cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and completed his schooling as a history major at NYU.
How did you get into toy photography?
I am relatively new to the world of toy photography and my adventures in to the art form began with a desire to create something for my beautiful nephews, Dillon and Wyatt. To pass on to them some of what sparked their father and my imaginations as children.
About a year ago, I set out to create photographs from an assortment of Star Wars collectibles I had squirreled away over the years that were just gathering dust in the basement.
At first, I just wanted to see if I could produce one or two pictures to give to my nephews for the walls of their bedroom. My brother saw some of my early attempts at the staging and lighting of various scenes and said, “Bro, you have to put these on Instagram.” To which I half-jokingly replied, “What’s Instagram?”
What’s the experience like showing your work on Instagram?
I joined the platform last winter and have enjoyed the community immensely—it helped me to grow on a personal level as well because I have always been hesitant to share my work. I have found in the Instagram community a wealth of knowledge and inspiration from other toy photographers, and hope I have contributed to it in some small way myself.
Tell me about your process.
It usually works like this: I will think of one scenario from the original Star Wars trilogy that I want to bring to life. And for about a week I will make a mental list of all the materials needed, as well as the best way to set up the scene. When I’m satisfied that I have the right plan, I will set out in one weekend to put everything together. There is still quite a bit of trial and error, and that for me is the fun part. In the end, I strive to create the feeling of the moment I capture, rather than obsessing over every screen detail.
To sum it all up, it’s just fun and, most importantly, it frees my mind from the tyranny of my own fears and self-doubt. For a while anyway.
You’re also an excellent cartoonist and illustrator, among other talents. How much of a role does art play in your life?
I have been coming to grips with the fact, perhaps a bit late in life, that being creative is my only salvation. I don’t engage in it nearly as often as I should—and my life without disciplined creative output is noticeably less fulfilling. It calms me and focuses me, it lifts me up.
What do you do for work when you’re not making art?
For the last six years I’ve been in the trades, and it has been the most satisfying chapter of my life. Working with my hands has been more rewarding spiritually than I could have possibly imagined, and it definitely helps with how I now address my creative problem solving.
Tell me about living in Sag Harbor.
I’ve had my ups and downs as a resident of the East End, but I wouldn’t live anywhere else. To me, it’s the most beautiful place in the country. I’ve driven across Long Beach looking out on the bay 1,000 times, and my spirit soars every time. It never gets old.
Where can people find your photos?
You can see my images on Instagram @nostalgiabox375. I only use the 3.75 inch figures and only focus on moments from the original Star Wars trilogy.
I know you shoot only the original trilogy, but do you have plans to see The Rise of Skywalker?
I do in fact have plans to see the final chapter of the Skywalker saga. I have mixed feelings with regards to the story development in the Disney trilogy on the whole, Rogue One rocked, but I am also accepting of the fact that these films have been created for a whole new generation of filmgoers.
If the new incarnation of Star Wars inspires young people to embrace their imaginations as much as the original trilogy helped to stir my mine and my brothers, that’s just a great thing—period. I hope the film does well, and I hope they can wrap it up with as little controversy as possible.
Find more of Scott Smith’s amazing toy photos at @nostalgiabox375 on Instagram, and see his comic book art at @the_secret_sentinel. Send him a message to order a print—it would make the perfect Christmas present for the Star Wars fan in your life.