When I first saw the posts about this year’s Toy Photo Safari popping up in my Instagram feed, I knew I had to make an effort to attend. I wanted to attend the previous meet up in Las Vegas, but the resources and timing weren’t quite there.
Since a few years ago when I starting getting serious about toy photography I’ve made sure to bring toys with me as I travel. Shooting in locations I don’t often visit has a strong appeal and the Pacific Northwest is one of those places I have really wanted to bring my toys. The locations Shelly brought us to couldn’t have been better. We saw a perfect mix of diverse landscapes and urban environments. Generally, I gravitate toward outdoor shooting. I love trying to get interesting landscapes and epic backgrounds into my shots that provide a depth of field that is impossible with indoor shooting. The same can be said about the natural light outdoor shooting provides. This isn’t to say I don’t like indoor shots. I’m quite envious of the toy photographers that make it look great and my goal is to someday be just as comfortable creating a scene inside as I am outside. (Not to mention making awesome dios!)
The other side of awesome on this trip was getting to interact IN PERSON with other weirdos who share my passion for this unique art form. I assure you I use the term “weirdos” with the utmost love and respect. Believe it or not, there are people in this world that think it’s strange for adults to buy toys and roughly the same number of folks think it’s strange to photograph them. A wise man once said, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.” Now this word may sound derogatory to some, but I take “uncool” here as meaning, “not mainstream.” If you’re a toy photographer, I think that’s cool as hell. It was exciting to meet those I’d been following already, but it was just as wonderful meeting people I didn’t already know because we immediately have a common obscure passion. Like meeting a friend you didn’t know you already had. I made sure I was meeting people to get their Instagram handles at the same time as their legal name so I could make sure I was either following them or clicking the follow button as soon as I could. It took a while to associate all the new faces with their work as photographers but I think I got it down. After all that, I still found myself calling people by their Instagram name.
Recently I met an individual for the first time as I was about to go wandering around town with toys and camera in hand. “I’m going to take pictures of toys,” I said nonchalantly. This girl I had just met was a good friend of my girlfriend at the time so I could tell she was careful with her response. “Ooookay. Whatever floats your boat,” she retorted nervously. I’ve been doing this long enough to be confident and proud of my work so I opened up my Instagram and provided examples of what I do. “Wow, that’s actually really cool,” said my newest follower.
This occurrence has become more common as I continue this endeavor, and if the #SeattleToyPhotoSafari was any indication it happens to all of us. As we swarmed the various Seattle locations there were several instances of a passerby stopping to ask what we were up to. At worst the response was something like, “oh, cool,” and they went about their lives, but most of the conversations that ensued were with strangers who were genuinely complimentary and fascinated by our work.
Admittedly after I signed up for this trip there was a brief feeling of apprehension. As I studied the roster of those who would attend I noticed the majority of photographers seemed exclusively Lego oriented. While I am a lifelong Lego collector, I tend to primarily use action figures in the images I create because of the greater motion that can be conveyed through higher articulation. I have been sporadically using Lego in my toy photos since I began, but the Seattle trip was the perfect excuse to step it up a notch. I say my apprehension was brief because I quickly realized when you boil it down, all of us are just shooting plastic. Whether it’s plastic Lego mini-figs, plastic dinosaurs, 6” articulating plastic, or even plastic piles of feces (#mylilshietz), we’re all just here to have fun and create some art.