What is Toy Photography?

10% of the worlds population suffer from Alexithymia; a trait that makes it difficult to find words for thoughts and feelings. I’ve never been diagnosed with Alexithymia but I sure as hell can relate to it. What does this have to do with Toy Photography? I’m glad you asked. Please, read on…

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you recently saw me post a quick video interview I did with Marvel where Jamie Frevele asked me “What is Toy Photography?” A simple, straightforward question, right? For the purposes of that interview, I would say yes, simple question, simple answer. My goal was to take Marvel action figures (from the fine folks at Bluefin/Tamashii Nations) and put them in realistic sequences as if Peter Quill was really blowing up that “nut-sack of a chin” off of Thanos’ face.

Property of Marvel Entertainment

I guess I’ve always had difficulties explaining what Toy Photography is to anybody. “I take photos of toys” is how I usually articulate it. When you see it, that’s when you start to grasp what Toy Photography is. But when you actually do it, it takes that understanding to another level.

My very general response really made me think about how I defined Toy Photography, and made me wonder why the Toy Photography community is so extremely passionate about this art. It’s not just about taking these action figures and making them look life-like (as I stated in my interview). It’s goes much deeper than that. Yes, I take pictures of toys and try to make it look cool but what am I really trying to accomplish? Why do I use every spare minute of my time thinking of ideas for my next shot? Why am I so addicted to plastic? Why do I eat, drink and sleep Toy Photography? And why the hell can’t I put all these crazy emotions and feelings into words? SCREW YOU Alexithymia. So many “Why’s” and not enough answers. I asked my fellow toy photographers and friends to help me search for these answers and deliver the language I needed to express all these emotions I previously couldn’t articulate…

@chilberg – “Toy photography is a great escape. It allows you to submerge yourself into magical worlds where there are no boundaries. A world where mutants tell jokes and fire balls flow like water. We need this escape. We need a place to go to that will allow our fantasies to rule. Toy photography is more than just making toys seem life-like. It’s about bringing your imagination to life.”

@greaterbeast – “I think for me, toy photography is just a long awaited outlet to unload all the deep heavy feelings we’ve carried for these series and characters for so long. It’s like loving the same person since our childhood; These characters have been with us through our very best and absolute worst. The least we could do is bring them a bit of life and beauty. I think most hobbies throughout the fandoms stem from this sentiment.”

@noserain – “To me, toy photography is a medium that allows me to capture endless imagination through the charm of toys. Even though the figure has its limitations, the figure becomes limitless by our creativity, and that is a bottomless pit of joy.”

@cloudfigures – “Toy photography isn’t just bringing figures to life, it’s about creating your own world and story with each shot you do, it’s about the excitement when new figures come out, or the nostalgia of posing an old one, they are friends who can’t speak, but always listen. And through it we gain access to a community of mostly like minded individuals pursuing a form of escapism in a healthy productive way, that encourages youth to be creative and use their imagination in a positive way, and communicate with kindred through kindred hobbies.”

@runsforcookies – “I have tried numerous times to explain to friends why they need to check out your “toy photography” on Instagram, but there really is no explanation that is worthy of your skills. It’s not something to explain… it’s something to SEE.”

@blksrs – “To me toy photography at it’s most basic, is just taking something that i love, photography, and mixing it with something else that I love, toys! The act of taking a shot, editing it, and creating something that looks visually interesting is my favorite part. Once you throw in toys or brands that you love, the possibilities are truly endless! You’re right in that it is difficult to explain the joy we get out of setting up our favorite characters and then taking pictures of them. That’s why I always tell my friends they need to try it for themselves!”

@berol.mirado – “for me it’s a way to tell a story, make you laugh, make you feel.”

Image from “Welcome To Marwen” Property of Universal Pictures

Now that I am able to speak, what is Toy Photography to me? I guess its my crazy way of telling a story using toys as the subject and photography as the vehicle. I try to incorporate comedy as much as I can, because laughter is therapy, it brings people together; it’s a language that everyone knows how to speak. I love to entertain people, make people laugh. Yet, I hate to be the center of attention. This is why I love Toy Photography. I’m behind the scenes and the toys get the spotlight. I’m not a good verbal storyteller so to be able to share my visions and creativity through toys and photography is such a delightful experience. We can always tell stories with photography in general but the awesome thing about using toys is we get to capture our imagination with characters we love (and hate) but in a small scale… because everything cool becomes SUPER cool when you shrink it down in size, right? Plus, I can’t just pick up the phone and call Robert Downey Jr. and say, “Hey Rob, wanna do a photoshoot?” But with toys I can virtually call anyone and they can’t say no to any role I ask them to play.

A huge thanks to those who contributed to this post mentioned above, as well as those who responded to the call on my Instagram post.

~Jax

Thank you Jax for giving us permission to repost this article from your personal blog. If you would like to check out other great toy photography related blogs, please check out our page featuring other outstanding toy photography related blogs.

3 Comments

  1. Demarcation Media

    I particularly like Cloudfigures explanation. That pretty much sums up my ideas of Toy Photography. It’s about creating characters and worlds and using those characters and worlds to tell stories. Great article! It’s really cool to hear all these different people explain what they see Toy Photography is.

  2. Rebekah

    For me, toy photography is like another form of play. I’m 19 and I don’t have the child like imagination to play with toys the same way I used to when I was five. I still love my toys and they still have that essence of being alive, but it’s not the same. So with toy photography I can be able to in a way play with my toys and be able to continue to tell stories with them and now that I’ve learned about the #withtoysinmind, I can be able to express what I’m feeling because I have high functioning autism and it’s hard for me sometimes to explain what’s wrong or what I’m feeling to others. So thanks to #withtoysinmind I now have another way to express what goes on inside my head.

  3. Excellent post, Jax! I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve tried to explain to someone what I do. It usually starts with a friend or family member introducing me to someone, and saying, “He takes really cool pictures of LEGO!” Then the person looks super confused and asks something like, “Oh like make them look life-sized or something?”

    It’s not until I actually pull out my phone and show someone what toy photography is that they really “get” it. I suppose that’s what’s kind of cool about our hobby, it’s relatively new in the photography world, though it’s growing all the time. Thanks for taking the time to try and find an answer to the question. I think it really does change depending on the photographer, but love all of the answers that you compiled here.

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