There are various way to approach the creation of new photos. Personally, I like to think of an idea then figure out what toys and other props would be best to make that vision a reality.

Sometimes I look through my collection, other times I’ll browse online or in shops, and sometimes I’ll make my own objects. I don’t typically make the precise, detail oriented, gorgeous work you’ll see of miniaturists or customizers, but I do make simplistic models that fit my end goal. I like to think of the camera lens as a tool of transformation. Through it, I can make my simple sets come to life.

Is it still a toy if I make it myself?

Well, I’ll leave that up to you in the end. But I’d like to think a small trinket posed with other toy or toy-like items still falls into the range of toy photography.

When I say I make my own toys, here’s what I mean.

First up, I’m sure this is something we all do from time to time, building sets using paper, cardboard, foam core etc.

My other standard supplies include polymer and air dry clay, glue, and odds and ends found around the house.

Then, more technologically, I sometimes design and/or source 3D models to print and paint.

And most recently, I’ve been creating molds for play-doh and hot glue lego mini figures. For years I’ve had the idea of creating an image that shows a figure crumbling. A metaphor of the mind, shown visibly. I never quite figured out a way to do this, and then I thought of play-doh and how it gets all crumbly when it dries. I liked the symbolism of a lego figure rather than a more realistic human for this, an icon of an icon of sorts. As I started the molding process, other ideas came to life for this type of ‘toy.’ And so a short series of images began.

I’m not quite sure this is my end all be all crumbling image, but it’s a start. And the best way I knew how to make it was by making the toy I needed for it.

“With any means available, [tableau photographers] create photographs intended to convey their philosophic and moral views of the world and themselves.”

– Fabrications by Anne H. Hoy

Long story short, I find what I need to make the photo I’m envisioning, and sometimes that comes in the form of creating my own toys.

~ Jennifer Nichole Wells

Do you ever make your own toys or other photo props? Why and how?