Why? by Jennifer Nichole Wells

Hi everyone,

My name is Jennifer Nichole Wells. I’m 26 and reside in Jacksonville, Florida. By day, I’m an administrative assistant. Nights and weekends I photograph (and obsess over) toys.

Why create? Well that’s easy, sort of… because I have to. I have a drive within me, a hunger, which will not be tamed, except through making things. I believe artistic expression is such an important part of the human experience.

But why toys? That’s a whole other story…

I aim to represent emotions, memories and dreams in my photographs. Abstract ideas, but ones we can all relate to. In this, I think in miniature. While my thoughts on this change over time, currently, I believe this is for two reasons.

One, I like having control over every aspect of the scene in front of my camera lens. In small scale I can source or create every object for my photographic set. Then, use my camera to further blur and distort.

Secondly, I like playing with juxtaposition. Toys are something quite familiar to each of us. In childhood, they bring us joy and reflection and they help us learn and process through imaginative play. As we age, we hold onto our dearest pieces, and some of us continue to collect new pieces. In this, toys become nostalgic, albeit, still quite joyful souvenirs and collectables. So, when photographing these pieces, these joyful, nostalgic, iconographic objects, in emotive reflective scenes, I hope to create imagery that encourages viewers to stop and think and feel right alongside the depicted figure. Somehow, it’s so easy to relate to and personify a toy.

Junior year of high school I illustrated the novel ‘As Lay Dying’ by William Faulkner for an English project. A plastic fish swimming out of a coffin, a burning paper barn, play dough brothers. This is the earliest I can remember using diorama-like scenes for photographs. Then, in my college dark room courses, I used a Lord of the Rings Aragorn action figure in a series about depression, and quarter machine monkeys in examples of depth of field. My turning point, I believe, of which I’ve never looked back, was my response to a digital assignment in a collegiate color photography course. I could only fathom the color symbolism filled WWII narrative I imagined, using small scale scenery. And it was with that, that I ordered my first train miniature pieces.

In this, my photographing of toys exclusively was a process that occurred over a few year span. It seems each time a narrative project was assigned in late high school and early college, I could only consider the project in the terms of photographs of miniature dioramas. I’m sure in some ways this stems from my fascination with miniatures. I personally kept all my smallest toys from childhood. I also grew up doing plenty of craft projects with my mother and sister. Combine these with a love I found, during high school, for how scenes can be transformed with light and a camera, and you have my passion.

~ Jennifer Nichole Wells

For more information about Jennifer please visit her website and blog.


  1. Leila @brickandmordor


    Thanks for sharing this background! I’d love to see your photographic interpretation of “As I Lay Dying”! I also love that your school projects inspired those works through the toy medium. I had the same experience with my art classes, using LEGO as much as I could for the assignments.

    I love your work!

  2. Dear Jennifer,
    your post is so interesting ! The artist’s mystery of self-expression is my favorite topic. It’s great how you describe your control over the little figures’ actions , your mood and your photography preferences , the world of your art is so well presented in this article! Thanks a lot for sharing!
    Kind Regards,

  3. brett_wilson

    Such a beautiful “why?” post Jennifer! I love that you create because you “have to”. And, because you’ve chosen toys as a medium to do so, we are lucky enough to witness your passion. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story.

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