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Galactic Empire invades Vancouver: Meet the man taking amazing photos of stormtroopers around the city

Over the years they've visited local parks, major landmarks and other countries.

Stormtrooper AW-1988 gets around.

Especially for being a toy.

The stormtrooper toy is the main feature of a lot of Anthony Wan's photos, and the star of @trooperaw1988 on Instagram. Wan poses the lifelike (though small) toy around the city (or other places, back when travelling was a thing) creating different scenes, from the serious to the silly.

"One of the reasons I like them, for the toys is you can't see their faces," says Wan. "Because you can't see their faces ironically they're more expressive."

They also have lots of points of articulation, he adds, so he can pose the action figures in natural positions, making them mourn fallen soldiers, ponder some art or march through a forest.

Wan sort of fell into the hobby. Living alone in a sparse apartment he wanted a way to make his work area more personal. Being a lifelong fan of Star Wars and a bit of a military buff, a stormtrooper was a natural choice (if you work in a large office odds are at least one person will have a Star Wars character in their cubicle).

From there he started taking pics of his new office colleague in different positions, sharing them with friends. In a way it wasn't a new hobby; when he was young he took photos of model toys. This time though, in 2016, his friends and family coaxed him into getting an Instagram account.

Once on Instagram he realized he wasn't alone in his hobby.

"I found this amazing community of toy photogs, both abroad and here in Vancouver," says Wan.

After about a year his toy photos were popular enough he decided to start an account just for the stormtrooper, along with a growing collection of others. It helped that he found the act of photography a healthy place for his creative energies.

"It's a creative outlet, which is something I personally need as a stress reliever," he says. "It's not a physical muscle, but it's a muscle you need to use."

It also allows him to have serious moments and silly ones, depending on the situation.

And there was an appreciation for his work. Currently, Wan has just under 1,500 followers on Instagram and gets featured by other accounts which focus on ttoy photography. He's even had some people from the Star Wars world like his work, including a concept artist and the actor who played a young Boba Fett.

Another time he was tagged in a post on Instagram by a young teen who had taken his own toy photo.

"He said he was inspired by a shot I had done," Wan says. "That was really nice, a kid out there had gleaned something positive I had done."

When he's out shooting there's not as much of a reaction, though he does have kids sometimes come up, curious about what he's up to. Once he even had someone recognize who he was.

But he's not out taking the photos for the recognition.

"Spending that time setting up a shot, creating something, posing the figures I like doing that, the process," he says.

While he occasionally comes up with a scene in advance and then has to go find a setting, more often he has a few of the toys on hand if inspiration strikes. He focuses on stormtroopers, calling them "super cool" and "striking" but has others and some old vehicles from when he was a kid that are now getting a second life as photography features.

While he's got a large and popular collection of photos online, Wan says he's one of many in the toy photography community (he says people should check out the hashtag #cdntoyphotography to see what's out there), and it's a skilled group. Some are "light years" ahead of him he notes, and others have become friends.

"I do like this hobby and I'm glad I found it," he says.