Brian McCarty is the coolest toy photographer you probably haven’t heard of. Of course, maybe you have an eye for the amazing and you already know of his work. If not, let me introduce you.
In Art-Toys, Brian works with independent artists and their art toy creations to create sublime and beautiful images. His work is extremely colorful which highlights the often primary colors of these plastic toys. His wide angle lens captures these unique toys and the surrounding environment in ways that result in interesting and unexpected interactions. It doesn’t matter if the toy is in a parking garage, in the desert, at the bottom of a swimming pool, in front of a bilboard or on a city street, the locations are fascinating and the toys look fantastic. Each is a complex and surreal story that we’re allowed a glimpse of one tiny frame.
I admire Brian’s’ ability to capture wide open vistas yet still construct an image that fills intimate. I am in awe of his technical prowess behind the camera. His use of practical effects always add to the overall story, never overwhelming it. HIs penchant for combining toys with the ‘real’ world by adding humans is something we hardly ever see in what passes for modern day toy photography. Rather than the conceit of ‘bring the toys to life’ these toys have broken through the imaginary third wall and are actually inhabiting our world.
What make this book truly unique from the toy photographers perspective (as well as for the art toy collector) is the Behind the Scenes section. There are thirty-five pages of Brian at work on location for you to learn from. There are so many stories about individual images, information about the artists who created the toys he’s photographing, Brian’s thought process behind some of his most iconic images – for this part alone, this book is a must have for your book collection.
While Art-Toys is a work of art, War-Toys is a labor of love. Brian has taken the same sensibility that he brought to his Art-Toys series but to war torn regions like Israel, The West Bank and The Gaza Strip. Working in conjunction with art and play therapists as well as local care givers, Brian recreated the art work of children who’s lives are directly effected by war. Brian uses their drawings and local toys, often set-up at the same place the event happened, to create a powerful side-by-side narrative. In a most childlike and powerful way, he brings the horrors of war into stark reality.
The images that Brian has created in conjunction with these children who’s lives are directly impacted by war, is a pictorial essay on exactly what ‘collateral damage’ looks like. The colors might be bright and candy colored, but the reality is anything but pretty.
It is this work in a war zone that sets Brian apart from other toy photographers. He has elevated toy photography to something more than simply a creative toy dashing across the desert; each image is a testament to the horrors of war. He creates art. He has profoundly affected my view on the world and how I see my own work. It’s no secret that I don’t like to see violence used in toy photography. I think it’s a disturbing trend that unfortunately reflects the world we live in. The images in War-Toys are harrowing to say the least. To see the fears and real life experiences of children played out using Playmobile, HO scale figures and green amy soldiers is sobering. That Playmobile mom laying in a pool of ‘blood’ outside a burning plastic bus while a real fire rages in the background and a toy helicopter hovers in the background – that really happened to someone. That’s a sobering thought.
Describing Brian’s work as powerful, does not go far enough.
I hope you’ll check out both of his books; they each have so much to offer the aspiring toy photographer as well as citizens of the world. If you decide to purchase one of his book, please consider buying the special edition. All money raised from the sale of these limited edition, signed copies, help to fund Brian’s continuing War-Toys project.
Who inspires you?
Did you notice all those beautiful leading lines?