Recently when my friend Bricksailboat wrote a piece on style and talked about the elements that make up his personal style, it struck a cord with me. I have also been giving some thought to style and what makes my own photographs unique as well as struggling with how to stay relevant with my work.

When I am scrolling through Instagram I am often confronted with images that I love and that inspire me. Me2’s recent portrait of the S13 Alien Trooper is one of those images. I look at this photo and I am blown away with its simple beauty. I wish I could do this, but I know it is not within me. I am also a big fan of Leah Minium; her images always remind me of a platinum or palladium print. The feeling of nostalgia that emanates from her images work especially well when combined with her toy photography images. I admire both of these photographers and I wish I could reach that same (seemingly) effortless simplicity and subtly in my own work. But after 30 years I continue to be  drawn to color, and I probably always will be.

I have noticed over the past few years that the Instagram toy photography community has shifted its emphasis from simple photos of toys to complex “action” shots with some pretty impressive results. It is not uncommon to see space ships flying effortlessly mini figures airborne and a lot of special effects used (both in camera and post production) to add an amazing level of realism. It can get pretty intense when my feed fills up with photos that include a lot of blood, gore and battle mayhem.

While I appreciate what it takes to create these shots, I know I don’t have this level of detail and technical savvy within me.

I remember way back when Avanaut first joined the collective; he talked about his realization that he was a “never-was film director”. I guess I am in a similar situation, but rather than a director, I am a never-was painter, specifically an impressionist painter. I treat photography, both digital and film, like a painter treats a blank canvas. I want the viewer of my work to feel like they are standing in front of a painting, something similar to an impressionist painting.

I enjoy photographing light in all it’s changing moods and I love color as much as the impressionists did. I employ a short depth of field to simulate brush strokes as well as eliminate detail, and I am trying to incorporate more blur and movement in my shots to create the illusion of a moment in time. All of this has more in common with the impressionists of the 19th century than the current trends in the toy photography community. Of course all of this is extremely hard to convey across a digital device, but when I have the chance to enlarge my images, well it makes my heart sing.

It does not escape my notice that more than a few of my favorite toy images have been taken in or around water. I am not sure if it is because I am within easy driving distance of several lakes, creeks and rivers or that I shot photographs underwater for over 20 years or maybe I just enjoy lying on a pile of warm rocks listening to the waves break while I am photographing my plastic friends, in effect turning the act of photography into a full sensory experience? (Of course I have learned the hard way that I should only do this when the tide is going out!) Whatever the reason, I am pretty sure that water is in my DNA and it will continue to be featured in my work.

Even though I admire how far my fellow photographers are continuing to push toy photography, I think I will continue to create the quite, peaceful and colorful images that I am personally drawn to. Hopefully the best of these will capture the beauty of light and shadow, motion and an intimate moment in time.

Possibly even a little magic.

~ xxSJC


Just before this photo was taken we were both over taken by a rogue wave; never turn your back on the waves when the tide is coming in.