ORLANDO, Fla. - The magic of space is literally at Jonathan Duggins' fingertips.
Using Lego bricks, the 36-year-old Orlando resident has recreated space scenes such as the Atlantis launch, Buzz Aldrin on the moon and a shuttle in low Earth orbit.
Duggins, a full-time videographer and part-time photographer, captures the finished product behind his lens after about two weeks of assembly. He uses various lighting techniques, green screens and tools to make the display as realistic as possible.
The photo series called "Let's Build Space" currently features 20 photographs, which are published on Duggins' website. He builds the sets in his living room at night while he and his wife watch TV, and the pictures are typically shot in his garage, he said.
Duggins' started combining his passion for Lego, space and photography almost three years ago in September 2016. His proximity to the Space Coast inspired the subject of the series.
"With spaceflight -- what NASA has been doing, what SpaceX has been doing -- that has just energized me and kind of sparked a passion in my heart," Duggins said.
His biggest inspirations for his work include the landing of the Falcon Heavy booster rockets at the same time and the words spoken by Anne McClain while aboard the International Space Station.
"Why not rally around a bold endeavor to go beyond where we've been before and to do things that we've never done?" he paraphrased from McClain.
Duggins also draws inspiration from the world of Lego and the playfulness of the plastic tool, he said. At 3 years old, he started playing with the toy almost every day. He's passed down the hobby to his three sons.
"After the kids are in bed, I'll often sneak the Lego bins out of their rooms to work on my project," Duggins' writes on his website.
The first setup of the series, "Weightless," illustrates an astronaut floating inside a space station while holding a cup as water floats out of it. But his favorite one features the 2011 Atlantis shuttle launch, which was inspired by photographer Dan Winters.
Duggins said he finds it satisfying when his work turns out exactly how he envisions it after several hours of time and energy. But there's another aspect of it he considers more worthwhile.
"To see other people experience these photos and just put a smile on their face -- that to me is the most satisfying. It means the most," he said.
Duggins plans to do one more moon photo before creating a group photo of astronauts from the 10 countries who have sent crew members to the International Space Station. He is challenging himself to create a Vanity Fair style photo on a small-scale, which is meant to represent the previously mentioned McClain quote, he said.
"I"m just really excited to get to share these with people," Duggins said. "I hope it brings them joy and hope it helps them see how we're all connected."
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