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Dumpster Fire Photo by Brian McCarty

  • 3 min read

I collaborated with one of my favorite artists Brian McCarty on this limited edition Dumpster Fire photo print.

Brian McCarty is an accomplished photographer known for his distinct work with toys, he's shot some of your favorite toys in spectacular situations and even had his work stolen by ISIS. His preferred approach is to integrate toy characters into real-life situations through the use of forced perspective, which I thought would be a perfect fit for the Lil Dumpster. I've known Brian and admired his work for a very long time, and a bucket list dream of mine was to have him photograph one of my toys.

Here's Brian on the making of this amazing image:

Last December I met up with Truck Torrence in LA’s Chinatown to photograph his then-prototype vinyl toy – the adorable and ultra-timely Dumpster Fire. Like many, I fell in love with the character as soon as I saw it, picking up a resin version at San Diego Comic Con for a friend, wishing I had bought an extra one for myself. Even before 2020 and our current, collective flirtation with the end of world as we know it, the Dumpster Fire perfectly encapsulated the time with its fresh horrors and outrage-worthy news delivered daily, as if it were entertainment. It was all too much, even then in the “before times,” yet we couldn’t look away; watching those flames and the smoldering trash was just too hypnotic. When Truck approached me to see if I’d be interested in shooting a production version of the toy, I jumped at the chance and carved out time in-between War Toys trips, thinking that I wouldn’t have another chance with everything planned for the year ahead. 

behind the scenes of Brian McCarty setting up the photo shoot

Setting up late at night, underneath strings of paper lanterns and among scurrying cockroaches, Truck and I had settled on a simple shot concept – the Dumpster Fire in its natural setting: dirty yet cute. I asked Truck to expand upon a newspaper design that appeared on his toy packaging, wanting to capture that same tongue-in-cheek message of disbelief that every news headline elicited, “Are you serious right now?”

behind the scenes of Brian McCarty setting up the photo shoot

The prop newspaper was suspended on a rod, as if blowing through the scene. The lighting was a combination of actual fire from a small, die-cast dumpster stand-in (to make the light on the wall and ground appear accurate), ambient sources, and handheld flashlights. A bit of water was used to pick up reflections and add to the textured griminess. The various elements were all brought together and refined in postproduction. 

It’s been a treat to collaborate with Truck, both on the shoot as well as the print release. A few months shy of a year old, the photo feels just as timely now as when it was shot, if not more so, thanks to the prophetic perfection of the Dumpster Fire toy. I hope that his little smile and plastic flames warm your heart and give you a little solace in these especially troubled times. 

behind the scenes of Brian McCarty setting up the photo shoot

We're offering this image as a limited edition photo print, available Thursday, October 22nd, 2020 12pm.

  • Printed by Static Medium on Moab Lasal Exhibition Luster using archival inks.
  • Signed and numbered edition of 160.
  • Limit 1 per household.

More about the Photographer

Brian McCarty is a toy photographer and the founder / executive director of the nonprofit organization War Toys® – helping war-affected children through advocacy, expressive therapy, and toy design. Brian’s work has been exhibited by museums around the world, acquired by prominent collections, and covered by The Washington PostGuardianNew York Times, CNN, Wired, Al-Jazeera, Reuters, Huffington Post, and countless other international publications. He’s seen his work used as a billboard in Times Square and stolen by ISIS for online propaganda. Brian understands how much toys shape and reflect our culture.