Enchanting Scenes of Star Wars Action Figures Enjoying Their Own Everyday Adventures

AT-AT Farm - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
Down on the “AT-AT Farm”

A trio of tiny clone troopers float on a makeshift raft, some baby AT-ATs frolic in a field, and little R2-D2 isn’t sure what to make of the chick he’s encountered. Yes, these Star Wars icons appear to have left the sinister world of the Galactic Empire and the Dark Side behind to play out their own private dramas – and in rather more pastoral surroundings. Fear not, though, for these aren’t spoiler shots from The Force Awakens. Instead, they’re remarkably natural-seeming scenes created through the miniature art of Zahir Batin – specifically, from his awesome Episode I photography project.

Hangout - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
Clone troopers fishing in “Hangout”

While countless adults of a certain age had Star Wars action figures when they were young, not many will have ever used them as artistically as this Malaysian photographer. Batin’s figurines are posed in apparently everyday situations, making his resulting shots both somewhat mundane and yet, thanks to their subjects, totally surreal – and cool with it.

Unbreakable Bonds - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
These clone troopers have “Unbreakable Bonds”

These scenes are, of course, unlikely to appear in future Star Wars movies – unless, that is, Batin knows something the rest of us don’t. However, the pictures we’re presented with do nevertheless cast the franchise’s characters and other staples in a totally new light, making the clone troopers, for example, seem a whole lot more human.

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Image: Zahir Batin
R2-D2 makes an acquaintance in an “Awkward Conversation.”

Having acquired his first camera – a second-hand Canon EOS 1000D – in 2012, Batin is a relative newcomer to photography. Still, that hasn’t prevented him from developing a keen interest in macro photography – the art of capturing small objects extremely close up.

Beware of Stranger - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
Little Anakin Skywalker and a Tusken Raider in “Beware of Stranger”

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As for Batin’s other cues, well, the main source of inspiration for these shots was fellow Star Wars toy photographer Yohanes Sanjaya, whose own surreal scenes depict the likes of a tightrope-walking clone trooper and a motorbike-riding Darth Vader. Yet while Sanjaya’s figurines often feature in urban surroundings, Batin’s, by contrast, occupy less built-up and altogether more bucolic locations.

Patrolling - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
Tiny scout troopers out “Patrolling”

And Batin certainly has his pick of Star Wars toys to work with, as the photographer boasts a 100-strong collection of figures, including everything from the Galactic Empire’s elite soldiers to the loveable R2-D2 and his companion C-3PO.

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Retreat - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
Hunting ducks in “Retreat”

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Each of Batin’s images starts with storyboard-sketched ideas, and these may pop into his head at any moment. Setting up the shot conceived, however, can be somewhat of a more laborious process. For example, when creating the scene entitled “Little Farm,” Batin used several live chicks – and he had to wait for some time for the more excitable ones to cool off.

Raft of Sorrows - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
A pensive clone trooper sits on this “Raft of Sorrows.”

Creating the perfect scene and taking the right shot can take up to two hours, and even then the work is not over. The props Batin uses to keep his figures in place – such as little sticks, wires and thread – must then be carefully removed in Photoshop.

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Speed Limit - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
Watching out for Ewoks in “Speed Limit”

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Batin doesn’t use professional lighting kit while on location, either. Instead, the timing of his shots is planned meticulously – to coincide with the sunset, for example, so that the images are as naturally lit as possible. This also means that he must be efficient; the sun’s descent only lasts for a certain amount of time, after all.

Dogs of the Military - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
These clone troopers are “Dogs of the Military.”

Batin’s dedication appears to have paid off, however. In 2014 the photographer’s work with the Star Wars figures was displayed at Kuala Lumpur’s Artcube gallery under the title Zahir Batin: Episode I. And it naturally appealed to the franchise’s enthusiasts: Sean Lee, the Star Wars Malaysia Fan Club president, was in attendance on the opening night, while fans were encouraged to come along in their finest Star Wars outfits.

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Image: Zahir Batin
Some troopers investigate “Crime Scene II”

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In 2015 Batin’s photographs were also displayed at Singapore’s Celebrate the Force through Our Lens exhibition – an event held by My Wonder Factory to coincide with “Star Wars Day,” which naturally falls on May 4.

The Decision of a Formerly Captain - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
Crossing the road in “The Decision of a Formerly Captain”

Batin’s work has also been featured in Malaysian newspapers the Harian Metro and the New Straits Times. And with the clone troopers – and others – having been cast in such an unusual light, perhaps those who have seen Batin’s shots, whether in the media or at an exhibition, will never look at these stock characters in quite the same way again.

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Greeting - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
C-3PO “Greeting” a feline friend

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Furthermore, although there seems to be no room for real people in Episode I, there’s definitely an altogether more human presence in one of Batin’s other Star Wars-related photography projects. In The Intruder, Batin’s young nephews can variously be seen confronting what could well be Emperor Palpatine with a lightsaber, watching TIE fighters fly overhead and hanging out with R2-D2 and friends.

ABC - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
R2-D2 and some troopers in “ABC”

The photographer’s obvious passion has encouraged him to dream up ever more inventive scenes in which the Star Wars figures are posed – some funny, others dramatic and even poignant. In fact, the range of emotions subtly conjured in Batin’s shots could be seen to evoke the blend of comedy and tragedy in the Star Wars movies themselves – despite the obvious differences in terms of settings.

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100 Hari Najip - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
Clone troopers read a paper in “100 Hari Najip”

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Batin’s work isn’t just a tribute to one of the world’s most successful movie franchises, though; it’s also a nod to his homeland – specifically, Malaysia’s scenic paddy-growing settlement of Tanjong Karang. “It’s a peaceful place with beautiful scenery,” the photographer told the Artcube gallery, “but please don’t come, let it remain that way.”

Live Performing - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
Rocking out in “Live Performing”

Interestingly, the photographer’s story partly mirrors that of George Lucas, Star Wars’ creator. Both individuals have combined cinematic influences with their imaginations to produce output that’s truly attention grabbing. Lucas was notably impacted by the work of Akira Kurosawa in creating the Star Wars universe, while Batin, naturally, was affected by Star Wars itself.

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Image: Zahir Batin
Some battle droids get a “Warning Lesson”

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And like Star Wars hero Luke Skywalker, Batin has gone on to succeed from a somewhat humble start. After all, this is a person without a photography qualification who uses a pre-owned camera, but a man who’s nevertheless gone on to achieve international – if not quite galactic – recognition.

Bus Stop - Zahir Batin
Image: Zahir Batin
Some troopers at the “Bus Stop”

Still, for anyone wanting to follow in Batin’s lead, the photographer advises them to not “be bound by one photography technique [and to] be more open and creative.” And he ends his website’s guidance, perhaps inevitably, with the words “May the Force Be with You.”

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Image: Zahir Batin
Droids ponder “Who is your God?”

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We’d like to thank Zahir Batin for sharing his awesome Star Wars scenes, which add a whole new dimension to a galaxy far, far away. Click here to buy exclusive Zahir Batin: Episode I prints.

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