This is the story of the toy photo that set me on my path. From this photo, I never looked back. This, is my one photo that changed it all.

My first post on Toy Photographers was my Why statement. Why I do what I do – photograph, of all things, toys. And in that I touched on my college WWII project.

The longer it’s been since I made that project, the more I realize how defining it has been to my future photos.

The Series

5 images. A car, a car and a house, a man knocking on a door, a man handing a woman a box, and a woman standing alone with the box. Simple. Mostly.

I made the set with a model train N scale car, figures (about 1 cm tall) and house, scale model scenery and real dirt. Never had I delved into the world of train scale before, so when the items arrived in the mail the night before the project was due the heat was on in learning how to work with these tiny objects. I set up the scene on a foam block on my bathroom counter and lit it with my desk lamp. For the car images I used my kit zoom lens and for the figure close ups I reverse mounted my 50mm lens. I’d never reverse mounted or shot macro before either.

With all the research beforehand and all the difficulties during shooting I never once thought I should go another route. This was the narrative I needed to do and this was how I needed to do it.

Going Forward

This was the moment I became a toy photographer. I had found my niche, my passion and photography became so much clearer. Yes, to complete college assignments there were a few times I had to shoot full scale real people or places, but every chance I got I turned back to toys. I remember thinking, now that I had found where I needed to be photographically there was little point to learning these other methods – that’s a whole other cocky college kid problem in itself, but I think it helps narrate how set I was on this venture.

The one specific photo I’ve held dear from this series is the featured image here. It really made me realize how transformed toys can become through the camera lens and my goal through the rest of college was recreating that. And honestly, I don’t feel that any of the images I created in college after came near to what I accomplished off-handedly that first time.

In the 4 years since graduating I think I’ve been more successful. More focused. I was a very do what you have to do to get the grade and try no harder student. Since graduating and realizing I don’t have the same support system, I’ve been a lot more focused on continuing to improve my ideas and technique.

Not only do I continue to return to toys, I also have taken with me the theme of war. War motifs without action- using war as a metaphor for disaster, destruction, devastation, isolation, depression, etc.

So there you have it. My one photo that changed it all. What’s yours?

~ Jennifer Nichole Wells