Eric is a Stormtrooper who escaped the exploding Death Star and wound up on Earth.
Now he wears jeans, enjoys lavender-scented bubble baths, drinks Johnnie Walker whisky and sings a song about his tomato allergy.
No longer a member of the Galactic Empire guard, Eric serves as muse to British photographer Darryll Jones, a self-described 39-year-old child who has turned his fondness for toys — especially Star Wars action figures — into a Force on Instagram.
“I have always loved toys,” said Jones, a food and lifestyle photographer who does work for the Tesco supermarket chain when he’s not taking pictures of toys. “I recall quite vividly setting up little dioramas in my room or in the garden and playing out the scenes in my mind, imagining that the little plastic figures could come alive.”
The fixed expression of the Stormtrooper helmet has been a menacing extension of the evil Empire ever since the first Star Wars movie in 1977. Yet Jones poses Eric to create absurd scenes conveying a range of feelings — from joy to melancholy, depending on the kind of day Eric is having — that contradict the image of an emotionless space soldier dead-set on crushing rebel forces.
In one picture, Eric is surrounded by cherries and Jones offers a glimpse into the mind beneath the helmet.
“He felt great as he pushed their cold soft skin against his helmet,” reads Jones’ Instagram caption. “He loved the way they smelled. All his problems slowly dissolved into a sweet cherry pie dream, a ruby red Darth Vader chasing him playfully around his emperor sized bathroom, flicking each other with wet towels and laughing.
In another, Eric looks lovingly at a fish. (“Eric has kissed some frogs in his day. But today was all about trout.”)
Jones’ daughters know when their father is shooting another scene because they find some of their toys missing. But often, the beautifully styled food illustrations Jones shoots for his work provide the inspiration for a story.
“If you look back through my Instagram, I have had a few troopers really,” said Jones, who uses a Canon 5D and two lenses, a 70-200mm zoom and a 100mm macro, to give each scene a life-size feeling. “Martin (that was the most famous guy), Lionel, Billy — who was just a total knob — all with their own crazy stories that simply grow from an initial image. I’ve grown so attached to each little guy.”
Each character develops its own personality.
“I remember how sad I was when one day, on a pier in Wales, one little guy fell off the railing into the stormy sea and my initial reaction was to jump in after him,” Jones said. “New troopers come and go, all with their own stories to tell.”
Eric, though, is special. He is part of the newly released 6-inch Black Series Sandtroopers, with more articulation for better poses.
Jones gets messages from Star Wars fans all over the world and can barely keep up with the instant feedback on Instagram, where some people comment on Eric’s every move.
With a new Star Wars movie in development and fanboys gearing up for a fresh wave of merchandise, the more than 31,000 people who follow @darrylljones on Instagram could see some new characters and story lines in his whimsical pictures.
“As long as what I am doing puts a smile on your face or evokes some kind of emotion, then I am happy,” he said.