A Short Introduction
Toy photography, while in itself a form of fabricated or tableau photography, has a way of spanning across all genres of the medium. This is one of the many many things I love about toy photos. Through toys we can tell stories, document places, record our travels, explore tiny details, the list goes on. To highlight the magic of toy photos and all the things they can come to represent I thought I’d create some posts of different photo genres and where toys fit within them.
In a sense I’ve talked about architecture and product photography here before, and I’m here today to make a case for portraits.
Portrait: a pictorial representation of a person usually showing the face
– Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Artistic representations of people began with cave paintings and have been a part of all cultures since. Quite simply they are representations of people. Toy figures themselves are representations of the same, and thus so are our photographs of them.
Learn more about the history of artistic portraits here.
“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.”
– Paul Caponigro
A human face can tell us a lot about the person, through their expression, wrinkles, sunspots, makeup, etc. A toy face is a bit different. Typically expressionless or bound to one emotion, we have to find ways to tell the figure’s story for them through posing, lighting and other props. While toys come in many varieties, using human like figures in your photos can truly help your audience relate – through these plastic, inanimate objects the viewers can see themselves.
We give toy figures a voice by making portraits of them.
~ Jennifer Nichole Wells
Do you ever take portrait-like images of your toy figures? Tell us about it and leave a link to a photo in a comment below.
Also, if you enjoy this post idea let me know what photo genres you’d most like to see next.
Continue reading Pint-Sized Portraits
Silly question, everytime is a great time to be a toy photographer! But read on, you’ll see what I mean.
The Cut recently released an article titled ‘The Big World of Teeny-Tiny Things’ of which they claim is an ‘everything guide to the miniature market.’ This article also appeared in New York Magazine. That’s a big deal. New York Magazine is reporting on miniatures. I want to say that’s such a strange concept, but I know very little of what New York magazine traditionally publishes. So, instead I’ll say, any publicity for minis I count as a win. Continue reading Could this be the best time to be a toy photographer?
“The world opens up…as a grand and glorious adventure in feeling and in understanding. Nothing human is unimportant to him. Everything he sees is germane to his purpose. Every word that he hears uttered is of potential use to him. Every mood, every passing fancy, every trivial thought can have its meaning and its place in the store of experience he is accumulating.“
-from Studs Lonigan by James T. Farrell as quoted by Brooks Jenson of LensWork (LW1040 Inspiration Comes from Everywhere)
Scratching the Surface
In a way I feel like each of my photos is an exploration of the same concept, emotion, story. And yet, while stylistically they may be similar, each photo varies in subject matter.
In each image I aim to create a quite stillness, a calm in the storm, surrounded by mystery. Why? Well, it certainly has a lot to do with my personal thoughts and experiences. But, the question remains as to whether I will finish scratching that itch; if I will inevitably decide that I’ve fully explored this story photographically. Or, if I will forever continue to grow and explore how to better represent precisely what I mean to. Continue reading Creating Art that’s Intimately Yours
Okay, so we’ve had posts about the magic of 3 and the power of 2, so now I feel I must advocate for 1 (or maybe just ramble about number symbolism).
Sure I’ve used various numbers of toys and figures in my photos, but I have a soft spot for one. That being said, I do tend to create solemn photos and 1 then comes to represent either lonliness, or a solitary journey. This doesn’t mean, in the whole scheme of things that the figure is in life alone, but for this moment, when we see inside their head, they’re on a philosophical path that they must travel alone. Continue reading One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do
**Just a disclaimer, this is not a critique on Kristina’s recent post. I completely understand her point, and relate. If you read between the lines, this post even reiterates a few of her points. This is instead a response to comments I’ve read and heard in the toy photography realm at large.**
Product v. Commercial Photography
‘Product photography’ seems to be a four-letter word in the toy photography community. A fear of a corner you’ll be placed in, an insult… But I don’t think it’s something to even remotely stress over.
Yes, toys are in part products, but the photos we create of them tell stories – they’re not items shot to specific standards against a stark white background.
If you were commissioned by a company to make a toy photo to their specifications, in most cases it would be commercial or adversarial work, but still not quite product photography.
The main difference is a creative photo platform v. a standardized one. Continue reading Product Photography
What if there were no social media sites?
What if there were no online ways to share images at all?
You could show your images to friends and family.
Find a like-minded community.
Post them on the walls of abandoned buildings.
Drag them from gallery to gallery hoping for interest.
Show them at art fairs hoping for sales.
Scatter them about the park or mall for a random stranger to find.
Stack them at the coffee shop counter.
Hang them on café walls.
Keep them to yourself.
What if there were no social media sites for us to post to instantly and hope for follows and likes? Continue reading What if?
“For me the printing process is part of the magic of photography. It’s that magic that can be exciting, disappointing, rewarding and frustrating all in the same few moments in the darkroom.”
– John Sexton
I’ll be honest, I don’t typically print my work. When I do, most times, it’s specifically for a show or sale. That said, it’s something I aim to do more, at least to keep images in a solid portfolio. Photos seem much more real when physically in your hand.
That said, sometimes the printing process can be a part of the art making itself. Continue reading Alternative Photo Printing
Each photo we make tells a story, and for many of us, we aim to bring toys to life through our images. Generally, this is done in one of two ways – showing the life of a toy, or showing life through a toy. The latter aims to blur the line between fantasy and reality and thus cause the viewer to think twice about the size of the objects within the photo.
While I’ve discussed the history of toy photography here before, I’d like to now focus on the genre that sometimes overlaps with toy photography – photo fakery. Continue reading Photo Fakery
The very first play in The Photographer’s Playbook asks the reader to figure out what game they’re playing. So, I say to myself, “I’m creating because I have a creative drive.” But this needs to go deeper. What are my goals, how do I intend to achieve them, and what is the best way to go about this? All things I have very vague answers to in my head.
And then I remembered a quote from Netflix’s The Incredible Jessica James, spoken by real world playwright Sarah Jones.
“And you’re doing it. That’s why we’re here right? This is it! There’s kinda not more to it than that.”
Continue reading Being in the Game
Art as Emotion
“Art is the expression of those beauties and emotions that stir the human soul.”
– Howard Pyle
Art is an extension of the way we each feel about the world.
Emotions are what make us human. The fact that no matter how different our backgrounds, we all grieve, feel joy and show anger, is something that connects each of us on a deeper level – it bonds us together in this human experience. It can be so important to feel through every experience, good or bad. And negative emotions can be just as beautiful as the positive. Without the bad there is no good. Continue reading Am I Creating Art?