Portraits in toy photography

I went to the National Portrait Gallery this week, in particular to look at the BP Portrait Award 2018, and it got me thinking about a few things around the portraiture aspects of toy photography. There have been a few posts about this already on the blog, so I’ll try not to repeat what’s been said before, but rather share my thoughts on the subject after an afternoon looking at portraits of all kinds in a gallery setting.

I guess the first place to start is with the question ‘what makes a portrait?’, because of the many I looked at in the gallery, they range from simple images of a person, to complex, abstract works of art that push you to see a person in a different light.

Looking online, it feels to me that a portrait is showing you something about a person, and not just a photo or painting of them. There is a story there to be found. Take a look at this page from Lomography.com to get a feel for photographic portraits.

My next question to myself is do I do portrait photography as a toy photographer? I actually got into photography years ago as a self-portrait photographer, completing a year of self-portraits, but I’ve not really thought about toy photography as anything other than toy photography! I’ve never really thought much about how it can fit into the different genres outside of the toy photography universe. Are #nofigurefriday shots still-life? Are we showcasing narrative photography in what we do?

Starting to look at all these different areas, it seems we do a lot of different things when we take toy photos, and a lot of that depends on the scene we set with our toys. To take this back to portraits, I decided to try taking a few portraits bearing in mind what I saw at the National Portrait Gallery.

LEGO harry potter
Mimicking a traditional photographic portrait with the new LEGO Harry Potter figure.
LEGO Neville Longbottom
Photographing Neville in his natural environment – the gardens at Hogwarts.
Not all portraits have to be in focus! Some are very abstract! In my head this one is mimicking the blur I get when I take my glasses off!

Some final thoughts for the week and some more questions! How can we, as toy photographers, learn from the portraits (both painted and photographed) that exist in museums? Does spending time looking at non-toy photography (and art in general) help us to become better toy photographers? How can we take the art we see into consideration as we pose our figures? So many questions, and no answers for you! I think this is one of those ‘mull it over’ as you take your photos situations!

Why not leave your thoughts on portraits in toy photography in the comments! I’d love to see how you feel about this genre of toy photos!

  • Lizzi

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  1. Hi Lizzi,
    love this post. So nice to read. I believe strongly in looking at images, reflecting on the content, trying to look, and really see… and then do, redo, look, reflect and try again. I for one love National Portrait Gallery , that is an awesome place, a great place to get inspiration. I’m a bit jealous of you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and your images.


  2. Joshua Kittleson

    It kinda seems like toy photographers don’t ask often enough how their images fit into different photography and painting styles, so im excited to read that you are also asking this question!
    Perhaps its more of a subconscious thing for us? Or is it that a lot of folks got into toy shooting after doing other photography first?
    If the latter, it will be interesting to see how our kids develop if they start shooting toys first, and THEN realize, ‘hey, this would work on a big scale too!’
    Or I could be overthinking this, and perhaps its better to shift mindsets and refer to ourselves as photographers first. or visual media artists.
    in any case, thanks for sharing! great pics and this article has made me do some thinking!

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