My timeline regarding toy photography is not long by any means, I pretty much started taking pix with my toys just over 3 months ago. That’s not to say that I have only started collecting and appreciating toys.
My love affair with toys has stuck with me for as long as I can remember. I still have my dad’s “Dinky cars” and “corgi” trucks from when he was a little boy (although they have seen better days), my brother and my Lima electric model train set from the early 80’s and my old lego collection (sparse as it may seem).
Apart from them keeping me attached to my childhood, there is something magical about toys. I can’t really explain it, a lot of my family doesn’t get my fascination with toys (although my kids definitely appreciate it). I suppose they allow me to explore my imagination station (#gibbosimaginationstation), to consider them as interesting characters as opposed to plastic objects.
I was an 80’s baby, my mom called me a TV baby as I used to love watching cartoons and tv shows about superheroes, villains etc. My all-time favorite was He-Man. I collected all the different figures over the years! I used to play for hours with them in my room or in the garden… I used to pretend that they were real and imagine they came to life at night time when I was asleep.
Fast forward a couple years; and when Toy Story came out, it blew my mind, not just for the amazing animation and story, but because it was about toys that actually were real and came to life. I had to have Woody and Buzz, so that is where my toy collecting started.
Fast forward a few more years, I find myself now. I am graphic designer/art director with 10 years advertising experience under my belt, a successful retired wedding photographer (Jamesgibbs.co.za) who has recently moved to the USA with my wife and kids from South Africa.
While getting settled into the US, I needed a hobby to keep me busy. I had been using photoshop for years, but had gotten a bit rusty with it and wanted to hone my skills in it again, specifically with regards to composting and creating interesting visuals. So I started doing tutorials on Phlearn.com and started getting my skills up to speed again. After doing some shots with my kids, I thought why not use toys as well. Coming from an art directing background and having quite a vivid imagination, I started thinking of weird and wonderful ideas that I could do with toys. Also, with all the knowledge I gained from wedding photography, specifically regarding light, I really found a great ease at shooting my “plastic” models. My first toy shot, (first one on my Instagram feed @harri.hawk) is of my brother in law standing with Bumble Bee and Barricade transformer toys.
I was/am a newbie to Instagram as well, but the response I got from this first post was pretty cool. I started finding other toy photographers feeds and seeing mind-blowing work and a whole new “pop culture” for everything toys!! That was +-3 months ago.
Having found a niche hobby like toy photography has been amazing. I am excited to pick up my camera again (6years of weddings will make you want to toss them in the trash), I am constantly thinking of creative ways to shoot ideas and am constantly looking at the amazing toys that are on offer (much to my wife dismay)…
I love finding the humor with toy photography or just a really clever visual that makes the viewer smile or take a minute to appreciate it… I am a big fan of Gary Larson and the Far Side series and try and create a fun one-liner/one image approach to my ideas. I see a lot of toy photographers like to use practical effects (no photoshop) but I personally think that that limits one’s ideas. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and respect all the people who take this approach (I do straight shots from time to time) but I like to think out the box, and as I mentioned at the beginning, I wanted to polish my photoshop skills so… tick!!
So that is where I am at the moment, Not sure where this will take me but I am loving the ride…