We’ve talked in the past about the importance of telling stories with your photographs. The underlying story helps to connect with your audience in a way that moves beyond the ‘wow factor’ of a pretty or a technically amazing photo.

To me this is the heart of what we do. We use bits of plastic to tell stories that mean something. Kristina uses her beloved Storm Troopers with wings and teddy bears to tell stories that are meaningful to her. My photos are intensely personal to me and reflect my own deep seated fears, dreams and aspirations. I’ve been clear in the past that my photographs and the stories that I create are for an audience of one. I’m pretty sure that Matt’s stories are a reflection of his own colorful inner monologue. I love that Mike’s photos have a story but he always leaves me a little room that I can bring my own story to his photos.

Toys are perfect for telling stories; they’re so malleable. They can tell their origin story, they can represent larger complex ideas, they can reinvent themselves or they can be our alter egos. I’ve personally seen all of these methods used to great effect, not only within our group, but the larger community as well.

In fact the Instagram toy photo community is full of people who want to tell their personal stories through their toys. Sure these stories run the gamut of funny, silly and derivative but they can also be incredibly revealing and often very personal…if you take the time to listen. These stories reveal marriages, engagements, the birth of a child, the death of a parent, abuse, illness and divorce. These are the stories that make us human.

I’m curious, are you listening as much as you’re telling?

Because no matter how much we want to be great storytellers we also have to be great listeners. There’s as much to be gained from  listening to others stories as by telling our own.

It’s easy to create a snap judgement of someone you’ve never met in person. Social media is famous for fire storms set off by some innocent and usually poorly thought out comment that burns everything in its path. I got a taste of that when I posted about Toy Violence and it’s not pretty. This lesson taught me to take a moment to get to know people and not to rush to judgment. We all make mistakes, we all say stupid things, we all want to be understood and we each want to tell our stories in the manner that best fits our selves.

As our little toy community has grown exponentially, its even more important that we take the time to listen to the stories that are being told. There’re so many engaging people posting photos that may not be the best photographically, but they’re often the most compelling (at least to me).

If you’re following people who aren’t telling you honest and true stories, then I suggest you look around and find the ones that are. More often than not, they’re the smaller feeds, the ones off in the corner doing their own thing.

If you stop and listen, I think you’ll be able to hear them. And in the process I guarantee you’ll become a better photographer, and a better human.

~ Shelly

What kind of stories do you tell with your toys? 

Are you like me, do you like to hear them too?

Injured Chima horizontal WM

Damaged goods