Darryll Jones has been making waves on Instagram for a few years now with his colourful, captivating portraits of Eric, a stormtrooper who’s decided that life on the Death Star just isn’t for him.
Instead, Eric has been accompanying Darryll, a pro photographer, around Britain and getting up to all sorts of hijinks along the way. I spoke to Darryll to find out just who Eric is and how he’s managed to accumulate 100,000 Instagram followers.
Can you tell me the ‘origin story’, as it were? How did you first meet Eric, and when did you first begin to photograph him?
I think it was about 5 years ago I took my first photograph of a toy lego trooper, and it’s pretty much evolved into what it is today. Eric has developed into the character he is all by himself. I was lucky enough to work for a major shopping chain here in the UK, and one of my jobs was to drive around the whole of the UK and capture images of farmers and suppliers, which gave me the opportunity to take Eric along.
This led to some awesome backdrops and his story just kind of developed from there. If you look through my feed, it all started with a shot of Lego Darth Vader, and then came small poseable troopers named Lionel and Martin, as I saved up more money, I bought different variations of stormtroopers, the best being the Hasbro Black series, 6 inch, that’s when Eric came to life. I get emails saying, ‘Please don’t tell me you’ve dumped a £300 display figure in a river,’ and I say ‘Hell yeah, I play with my toys man!’ So far I’ve only lost one hand, luckily he has others.
You’re a pro photographer. Do you find that dampens your passion for photography in your spare time, or enhances it?
I am a very lucky photographer, as I come from a graphic design background, and just loved photography. When I moved over to the UK from South Africa, there were no graphic design jobs, so I was taken in as a temp, uploading images for a studio that worked for Tesco.
They saw my portfolio, and my dedication, and hired me as a trainee photographer, I quickly worked my way up, and now enjoy the title of Lifestyle and Food photographer.
To answer your question, though, there are days when you get home and the last thing you want to do is look through a camera, but my head is always buzzing with ideas, so once I get over that initial feeling I just get on with it. I am constantly creative. I also need to try to balance all these things with having a family life.
Great! What’s been your favourite project that you’ve done with Eric?
Lately I’ve teamed up with an awesome landscape photographer named Karl Holtby, and we are travelling to all sorts of locations together, and it works so well, as we feed off one another’s creativity, but at the same time, we are not taking the same images. So far, those have been my favourite projects, getting amazing landscapes in the background. It’s all about location, and the story.
Can you tell us a little about the gear that you use the most?
I’m trying my hardest to whittle down my gear to one bag, one camera, one lens solution, as carrying all this stuff around is slowly killing me.
I am a Canon man — well, always was — but now Nikon have sent me a D750, which is a great camera, but I find more and more I’m leaning toward the Sigma Quattros, especially the DP0 with its Foveon sensor. It is so small and easy to use, and the results are astounding.
Out of the studio I just use natural light and sometimes a small reflector or two. In the studio I work with Profoto lights and my Canon 5D Mk III. I have so much gear though – too much. Hopefully by next year I’ll have got it down to my ideal travel kit so I can get around on my little Honda and tour the continent.
I can’t wait to see Eric touring around Europe! For aspiring photographers, what’s one piece of advice you’d give?
Do what you love! No matter what anyone says, just keep shooting to make yourself happy! Create your own trends and styles. Had I listened to people saying it’s childish, dumb, stupid, I would’ve packed Eric up ages ago, but I do it because it makes me laugh, and that has resonated with others and for now, it works.