Stan Lee wrote an important message 50 years ago and it’s still relevant today. Basically he says that when you do something for fun it doesn’t have to be meaningless.
“From time to time we receive letters from readers who wonder why there’s so much moralizing in our mags. They take great pains to point out that comics are supposed to be escapist reading, and nothing more. But somehow, I can’t see it that way. It seems to me that a story without a message, however subliminal, is like a man without a soul. In fact, even the most escapist literature of all – old time fairy tales and heroic legends – contained moral and philosophical points of view.
At every college campus where I may speak there’s as much discussion of war and peace, civil rights, and the so-called youth rebellion as there is of our Marvel mags per se. None of us lives in a vacuum – none of us is untouched by the everyday events about us – events which shape our stories just as they shape our lives. Sure our tales can be called escapist – but just because something’s for fun, doesn’t mean we have to blanket our brains while we read it! Excelsior!” – Stan Lee
50 years later and it still rings true!
It really is hard not to have fun while taking photos of toys. In fact, I think its probably the number one reason we do what we do – fun! Its hard not to set up a scene with your toys and not have some fun. It doesn’t matter if you’re commenting on the current political climate; if you’re telling a story about an issue that’s important to you; or if you’re sharing your life experiences through your toys. When you use toys to convey your message, fun will always be a part of the scenario.
In fact, I think that by using toys, your message will have more impact. No one suspects these small bits of plastic to be used in a subversive manner. Remember when Ai Wei Wei used LEGO to for his installation about human rights and freedom of expression on Alcatraz? I think his message had more impact simply because he used a child’s toy in an unconventional manner.
If you don’t see yourself as this type of activist, thats fine. Toys, photography and creativity should primarily be a place for personal expression. But don’t be surprised if your fellow toy photographers start to use their toys in ways that make you uncomfortable.
If Stan says it OK to create images that are not only fun, but reflect the issues of our day, then I think its up to us to continue that tradition. Lets not only create images that reflect the world how it is, but how we want it to be. Let’s support the artists willing to put their beliefs out there, even if we don’t agree with them.
And while we’re at it, lets have some fun!
Have you seen any toy photographers expressing their political beliefs through their photography? How do these images make you feel? Have you ever considered creating a political statement through your own photography?