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Star Wars Toy Photography Through The Lens of a U.S. Marine

By Hanssie on May 1st 2016

They are faceless men wielding guns, ready to carry out their commander’s orders. Whether in this galaxy or another, the Clone troopers storm into combat, the chaos of battle exploding down, their black and white armor standing out amongst the galactic battle raging around them.

Like a scene out of the latest Star Wars movie, U.S. Marine Matthew Callahan tells the stories of these toy soldiers in battle. As a combat correspondent, Callahan’s real job is to tell the stories of the men and women who serve in the military, but in this personal project, Galactic Warfighters, Callahan blends his love for Star Wars and his knowledge from his job to photograph sixth scale figurines, sometimes recreating the scenes he photographs in the Marine Corps.




Five years ago, when Callahan was injured in Afghanistan, he found a passion for photography. After re-enlisting, he began training to become a combat correspondent. While at Defense Information School, Callahan had an assignment on shutter speed – to create an image that froze and blurred motion. He borrowed his roommate’s storm trooper toy for the assignment and from there the project, initially named TheDroids, was born. Using his barracks as a studio, Callahan used the limited equipment he had – one light – combined with toiletries (used as makeshift gels), to experiment with light and long exposures so he could emulate a multi-light setup.



Now, Callahan breathes life into the toys, much like children do when playing with their action figures. He not only photographs the clone troopers in scenes reminiscent to his work in real life, but he gives them a voice through short stories. Much like the stories of real men and women in combat, these fictitious troopers in a science fiction world, are given brief vignettes detailing life as a soldier in their galaxy.

Inspired by what he is surrounded with every day as a Marine, Callahan uses what he has seen as a reference point when posing the characters and telling real stories and experiences. He also recreates iconic images, such as the one below from Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In the image, Sgt. William Bee seeks cover as sniper fire creates an explosion of debris which inspired Callahan’s drone trooper version.


Screenshot of original image from video

Screenshot of original image from video


One challenge in toy photography that Callahan focuses on is making sure to pose the sixth scale figurines in ways that look realistic. He finds himself mimicking the position, making sure that his body, his imaginary weapon, and position is all in the right place so that he can pose his figures as humanly as possible. Though he uses Photoshop, most of his images are created in camera. As seen in the video interview by Joseph DiGirolamo about Galactic Warfighters below, Callahan’s friends will assist in creating the debris and dust flying around in his photos.

Callahan uses both Nikon and Canon bodies (as seen in the video – a Canon 5D Mark III and a Nikon D750) and prefers really wide or really long lenses to help him have more control of the background.

See more of Matthew Callahan’s Galactic Warfighters on Instagram here and on his website here. Read more about Matthew Callahan in our interview in this article.


Cover #toyphotography #starwars #wolffe #theclonewars #contact

A photo posted by Matthew Callahan (@galactic_warfighters) on

[Via ISO1200]

CREDITS: Photographs by Matthew Callahan are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  2. Mike Upton

    These are amazing, and totally make the Stormtroopers more badass than ever.

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  3. Dade Freeman

    Fantastic work – good crossover :)

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  4. Daniel Thullen

    Very cool!

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  5. Chris Gerrard Castro

    Totally awesome!

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  6. Rick Renyer

    Fantastic story! Mr. Callahan’s images are amazing!

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  7. Callib Carver

    I love these, they are amazing and they draw you into the photo. Best part is they don’t look like toys. They look real, there is emotion and depth to them.

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  9. Steven Pellegrino

    Wow! Just amazing.

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