The Oregon Toy Photo Safari is weeks away and I’m brimming with excitement to meet new folks, catch up with returning attendees, take lots of toy photos, and raid other people’s toy boxes! I live in Portland, a couple hours inland from the Coast where the meet-up is based, so it’s practically in my backyard which is wonderfully convenient for me. While I vacation there often with local friends, it will be fun to explore the area with visiting toy photographers and see the locations through their perspectives.
As a veteran Toy Photo Safari attendee, I can vouch for the fact that these meet-ups are an invaluable means of deepening your connections with other toy photographers. Through social media, even if you engage with folks on a daily basis through their posts, they’re still relatively fleeting interactions. There’s a world of difference between typing out silent comments or emojis on a tiny smartphone, and having a real live conversation with someone, hearing their voice, their laugh, and seeing their actual facial expressions.
There’s a bit of validation too being around others who practice this unique craft that is toy photography, and you get to see it happen firsthand. It’s like an extension of the revealing #artvsartist posts on Instagram recently. Not only do you get to see the artists behind the art, you get to see them in action and watch them set up their shots, hunt down locations, and see what techniques and gear they use (or don’t need to use) to capture their images.
I learn so much that way and gain a deeper appreciation for everyone’s work, and I usually find myself intensely inspired to challenge my own creativity and expand my style. In fact, before the first meet-up in Las Vegas in 2015, I was strictly a LEGO person. But after meeting @krash_override and dipping into his toy box, I’ve developed a love for action figures too, and other non-LEGO oddities.
It’s also just so damn cool to meet people you’ve been following for years on Instagram! I remember the first time I met @wikitoybox in person at the Vegas meet-up. After about a year of “knowing” each other on Instagram, it felt like we were super old friends reuniting even though we hadn’t ever met before, and she remains a very close connection today. At the San Francisco meet-up last year, after the first night’s meet-n-greet, I had the best time chatting and laughing with @sgtbananas for hours afterward. Even the briefer interactions I’ve had at the meet-ups have fostered lasting friendships.
When you look through the previous toy safari hashtags: #vegastoyphotosafari, #seattletoyphotosafari, and #SFtoyphotosafari, there are incredibly serious and complexly set up images right alongside impromptu, playful quick snaps, and that’s one of the beautiful things about these gatherings. It welcomes all skill levels, all styles, all gear choices, and all toys. There’s room to get your technical photog geek on, as well as support for the silliest setup you dare to imagine without fear of people laughing at you because we’ll all be laughing with you!
It’s loads of fun, and honestly, some of my favorite moments over the years don’t even involve photographing, but they do involve tons of laughing! At the Seattle meet-up, sharing a house with @krash_override, @lizzybelle9, @coneydogg, @wikitoybox, @papajov, and @travelbricks, is one of my most cherished toy safari experiences: all those late nights spent, um, playing with our toys, shall we say. 😉 If you’re still unsure if attending the #ORtoyphotosafari will be worth it, the fact that most everyone who has participated in past events continue to attend each year should be proof enough that it is. Actually I think it gets better every year and I look forward to seeing what kind of magic and madness will develop this time!
If you’re interested in joining Leila and 30+ toy photographers its not too late to join in the fun. So we can finalize our planning we’re asking everyone to sign up (or at the very least indicate their intentions of coming) by May1st. If you’re on the fence please let us know so we can accommodate your last minute plans.