10 Reasons Why Toys are Fascinating

I’ve been studying various sources to get snippets about why toys are so fascinating to toy photographers and the general public alike. So far I’ve absorbed On Longing by Susan Stewart, The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bechelard, the documentary Marwencol, and various videos, articles and artist statements by and about miniaturists and toy photographers.

Today, I’d like to present those ideas, in summary, to you.

1 – Toys allow for a comparison between fantasy and reality

2 – Toys are nostalgic

3 – Toys lend to fun and playfulness

4 – Toys can form a dream-like, unreachable world

“The inanimate toy repeats the still life’s theme of arrested life, the life of the tableau. But once the toy becomes animated, it initiates another world, the world of the daydream.” – On Longing by Susan Stewart

5 – Toys are a frozen place in time, a slowing down of the outside world

6 – Toy environments can be fully controlled

7 – Toys are representational icons – whether of self, place, time, etc.

8 – Toys offer an immersive escape

“But the causality of smallness stirs all our senses…” – The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard

9 – Toys offer ways to work with your hands

10 – Toy environments are intimate, they pull you in closer

In short, toys are magical.

Many photographers on this blog have answered the question “why?” regarding themselves and toy photography. Have you asked yourself why lately?

Let me know what you would add to the list in a comment below.

~ Jennifer Nichole Wells


  1. Shelly Corbett

    Jennifer this is a great post! I am going to say that #3 is my main reason. I can be too serious (I’m often described as intense) and toys offer me a chance to experience the lighter side of toys. You can never take your self too seriously when you’re packing around a back pack full of plastic or laying on the ground setting up a photo. Through toys I’ve learned to tell stories. Maybe in time I will appreciate the other reason even more. Thanks for sharing this with the community!

    • Thanks so much Shelly. I probably most closely relate to #6 (I’m not a control freak I swear 😉 ). I like small, contained, fully transformable environments. Although I think maybe a combination of all of these give toy photography and toys in general the draw that they have. SO much to consider in this fascinating (albeit small) world.

  2. Thank you for your post, dear Jennifer! I love your 10 ideas! I think they all exist in the toy photographers’ life… but maybe toys aren’t always nostalgic: some adults never grow up. :)))
    Have a great day!
    Kind Regards,

    • I completely agree. Most of my toy collection I use in my images are ones I’ve collected recently specifically for photographing. Historically miniatures were made for adult collectors, so maybe modern day toy photographers, collectors, makers, etc. are simply getting back to their roots.

  3. I think for me toys are a way to connect with behind the scenes design. I like well designed toys. I know how much work is involved with creating a toy – from ideation, to engineering, to tool design, and on through marketing a finished product. I guess most folks that don’t really care about toys don’t really know the process and effort that “adults” put in to make a toy a reality. For me it’s all of the above, plus the admiration of seeing that elusive idea become real to an extent. All toys first started out as an idea in someone’s creative mind. I love this post!

  4. “So you’re back to playing with HO scale railroads ansd cars…,” someone remarked., to which I respond: “‘Humans are fully themselves only when they play,’ wrote Friedrich Schiller in his Aesthetics.” I thought it fit to share this quote here… Your posts are always stimulating, Jennifer – thanks for that.

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