Square Peg in Round Hole

I have been an active participant in the online toy photography community for three years and I almost always feel like a square peg in a round hole, I simply don’t fit in.  This feeling has been growing the last few months to the point where I want to chuck the whole thing and run in a more appropriate direction.

You’re probably scratching your head and wondering how could this be? Let me outline exactly how I don’t fit into this amazing group of people.

First, there is my age. Yes, I am one of the oldest people, that I know of, who is actively participating in the toy photography movement. In fact it is so bad, most of my followers have more in common with my kids, than with me.  I don’t feel like a peer, I feel like the den mother.

Second my gender. I am female in an overwhelmingly male field. When you combine toys with photography (both dominated by boys/men) you are going to get an overwhelmingly male participation rate. I have managed to find a few incredible female toy photographers within the community, but they are few and far between. My day to day interactions are primarily with men and sometimes the testosterone, the crude jokes, the sexism, wears thin.

I don’t consider myself a geek. I barely know the difference between Marvel and DC, my pop culture knowledge is slim to none, and I have never played video games much less read a comic book. This lack of knowledge puts me at a supreme disadvantage when it comes to identifying half of the toys being photographed. On the subject of Star Wars (which frankly dominates the scene) I will remain silent; although I do appreciate the community that has grown up around the franchise.

What makes the toy photography community so amazing is that they have accepted me as one of their own even though I clearly don’t belong. I have never meet a group of people so welcoming and supportive to all the diversity you find within this community; culturally, economically, educationally and of course, individual tastes in toys. I know that there are occasional squabbles, like in any close knit family, but the love and respect is real.

So I want to thank the community for accepting me for who and what I am… a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

~ xxSJC

I’ve outline what I’m not and you are probably wonder why I remain if I feel so out of place. Simply put, I enjoy the community and I enjoy the challenge. Whether that is enough to sustain me, only time will tell. 

I would love to here from other women about there experiences within the toy community; the good, the bad and the indifferent. 


  1. Ben Teoh

    Thanks for sharing, Shelly. I think having the diversity in the community is what makes it richer and I really appreciate what you’re doing – even if you do feel a little out of place.

    What I love is that we have people like you driving the bigger conversation about what toy photographers do – the “movement” as you put it.

    I hope that the good times outweigh the frustrating times and if you get to the point where you feel it’s time to through in the towel, know you’ll be sorely missed.

    • Thank you Ben for weighing in on this topic. I agree that our differences (and our ability to embrace them) is what makes this community so amazing. Toys, and our love of photography, is a great equalizer.

      Luckily for me, the good times far out weigh any negative moments. I continue to learn from my geeky friends and occasionally shake my head in complete disbelief and remember: To thy own self be true goes both ways.

      I’m not going anywhere at the moment; I doubt I could find anyplace this much fun.

  2. I think I have more in common with you, Shelly, though I’m not a photographer. And while most other writers in my category are women, I’m a lot older than they are, and my writing is also out of step with the pop culture driven direction that dominates young adult fiction. But Ben is right — the diversity of the community is what makes it vibrant.

    • It’s great to have you back commenting on the blog Lyn!

      I am glad that YA fiction has your unique voice. Like here in the toy photography community, it is this diversity that makes the community vibrant and interesting. If all YA was zombies and post apocalyptic novels, a poorer place it would be!

  3. brickandmordor

    Thank Gollum you don’t fit in! I think the qualities you listed as disadvantages actually give your work a unique photographic voice. Your style is beautiful, intelligent, and distinct; things that many people strive for but never achieve. So what if you don’t know the difference between Marvel and DC, and so what if you aren’t of similar age and gender as the majority of the community. Do you think your work would be better if you were all those things? You often write about being true to yourself, and I’ve adopted that as my own mantra too, because I too have a list of qualities that puts me clearly on the outside of various groups of people I claim to be my friends/family/coworkers/classmates, etc… But I need to true to myself, otherwise, what’s the point? You are an incredible person Shelly, as well as a kickass toy photographer, who has a significant place in this community. Thanks for being you.

    • Ah Leila! Thank you for your kind words. I am starting to get them impression that being the outsider is actually my greatest strength. My mission has always been to bring the community together and help those outside the main group to see how much fun we have and what amazing work is continually being created. First BrickCentral and now this blog is a continuing evolution of that process.

      As for you, my talented friend, It has been a real pleasure watching you grow as an artist. I want to be there every step of the way to watch you blossom and realize your potential. I am touched that my ramblings have struck home in even the smallest way.

      Cheers and much love to you,

  4. Margaret

    I love reading your musings on the whole toy photography movement Shelly! Your artistic work with these little toys is beyond inspiration… I also in the same category as you in so many ways: Female, Older, and not a comic book/video game lover. I find myself now watching things like “Star Wars: Rebels” and “Chima” because even my daughter is “Too Old” to be watching them, therefore I’m just a “crazy OLD lady”! LOL!! Yes, I loved the original Star Wars movie when I saw it in the movies when it was originally released 38 years ago…. I was 20 years old!!! It was epic and awe inspiring, like nothing I’d ever seen before!

    I love the toy photography community, it is a very unique and accepting group of people that breaks all barriers… Age, sex, culture and it’s so much fun!!! While I definitely can understand the “Square Peg” feeling, (heck I feel sometimes too) you are a great asset to the community and bring a different view to the genre. Thank you for being you and sharing your view with us!

    • Thanks Margaret for taking part in the conversation. I have to say I think your point of view is the most common. The community is very accepting of all types, all are welcome. It is this aspect of the community I find so valuable. I know we all feel out of place at one time or another and this community is the place that we can all call home.

  5. Ann Van Breemen

    I know it’s an old post but I just had to leave a comment. I too have felt a bit like you. I am quite a few years older than you and have been a photographer of landscapes and wildlife for many years but I have just recently this year stumbled upon the fun Genre of toy photography, mainly Lego. I love it, and yes, I have felt a bit out of place among the younger crowd. It was brought home to me when I was researching stop go motion video on You Tube and most of the tutorials I was reading were made by pre-teenage boys!! Now I’m much more at ease, probably because Instagram, where I do most of my posting, is mainly anonymous, with most people having a Username, (although not me) , and you are therefore more concerned with the image presented than the presenter. Now I just have to grin and bear the teasing comments of my friends and family who are non-Lego addicts. I also have to hide my Lego collection from my Grandchildren when they come around!!

    • Ann, you are in good company for sure! When I wrote that post I really did feel like a square peg in a round hole but all the people who I’ve met in person have all treated me with such respect and friendliness that its hard to worry about such things like age. And yes Instagram is wonderful in that you are judged by your photography, not on who you are. It can be wonderfully democratic that way.

      As for your friends and family, I’m sure once that try it themselves, they will join you, rather than tease you! And seriously, what a great way to connect with your grandkids! Way to go!! 😀

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