Toy Photographers: The Seattle Interviews

In May 2016, a handful of toy photographers met up in Seattle, Washington, USA, to take toy photographs together. Over four days we played, laughed, huddled in the rain, swapped toys and shared meals together. And we made a movie to document the event.

The Idea

What began as a simple idea quickly grew out of control. When Leila casually mentioned that she wanted to shoot some video footage of the upcoming meet-up, little did she realize what would happen next. For better or worse, I took her idea and I ran with it.

When the idea was first hatched over Leila’s kitchen table, I was volunteering at my local radio station, KEXP, in their video department. I knew the basics of video editing and I had talented friends who can operate cameras. In my naiveté, I thought: How hard can this be?

Leila wanted editing experience for her growing portfolio and I wanted a video to pass around to advertise future events. At the time, not a lot of people understood what toy photography was and I thought a video would help us show (not tell) how much fun this hobby is. It was the perfect win/win!


The Reality

Poor Leila! We bit off way more than we could ever consume!

Between my friends Luke Knecht and Justin Wilmore, as well as Leila, seven and half hours of footage was captured over three days. This broke down into 770 individual clips, some as short as 15 seconds. Between these clips and more than 300 stills, there were over 1,000 individual elements to organize into a cohesive story. A story that we didn’t have any idea that we were telling. In the end Leila spent over 400 hours logging, editing, troubleshooting, revising, creating the sound design, researching still images and all the other administrative work that accompanies a project of this magnitude.

In hind sight we should have created a cohesive story board to organize and capture the weekend. Instead we went in wide eyed with a vague idea to capturing a few interviews. I had created a set of questions that we asked everyone and those interviews make up the majority of the final documentary.

Distilling this much footage into a cohesive narrative was a herculian task; one that Leila was up to. It just took some time.

The Final Result

The final result was well worth the wait! Clocking in at just over an hour, Leila was able to create an accurate look at what goes on behind the scenes at a toy meet-up. The attendees of this year’s Oregon Photo Safari received a private screening of Toy Photographers: The Seattle Interviews. The video brought down the house! For those photographers who attended both events, the film is a walk down memory lane. For the new attendees it was proof they were part of something special. In fact these ‘safari’s’ are so beloved, that most of 2016 attendees were at the2018 event. Now thats dedication!

Without further ado, I present to you the masterpiece of Leila Chieko…Toy Photographers: The Seattle Interviews. 

A cheat sheet

Leila was kind enough to create an index of all the interviews within Toy Photographers: The Seattle Interviews. If you want to skip forward to your favorite photographer or rewatch some of the amazing interviews, you will find this index super handy.

0:00 – Intro by Shelly Corbett
1:21 – Location: Ferry to Fort Casey
2:14 – Collector or Photographer?
3:14 – SHELLY CORBETT – @shellycorbettphotography
8:07 – JON AIKEN – @dinoczars
11:24 – We Are Not Alone (David Valdez & Dave Towery, Ana Solis)
12:35 – KIWI CHEN – @wikitoybox
15:33 – CAMERON CRAWFORD – @camrc_
17:12 – Seeing the Magic Happen (Dave & Dave)
18:21 – ANA SOLIS – @travelbricks
20:59 – Location: Deception Pass
21:41 – DAVE TOWERY – @bear__trap
25:28 – CINDY DOCKTER – @coneydogg
28:03 – DAVID VALDEZ – @fathersfigures
32:07 – Location: Mt. Erie
32:44 – Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone (Dave & Dave)
33:47 – KRISTINA ALEXANDERSON – @kalexanderson
36:44 – CHRIS POLICHERI – @tronsoda
39:12 – Raptor Pack
40:39 – Location: Seattle Center
41:14 – JENELLE NOWAK – @mrs.playwell
44:47 – White Elephant Gift Exchange
46:47 – #pandatrooper
47:35 – DENNIS TAYLOR – @krash_override
50:33 – Location: Snoqualmie Falls
51:33 – LEILA CHIEKO – @brickandmordor
54:43 – JAMES GARCIA – @thereeljames23
57:26 – Print Exchange / Shelly Thank You
58:26 – Biggest Takeaway (Dave & Dave, Jenelle)
1:00:00 – Montage / End Credits

With Gratitude…

A huge thank you to this woman! Leila you’re a rock star for taking this huge project on and creating a lasting memory of the fun and friendship we share every year. May your camera always be steady and your subjects as interesting as you are.

Leila Chieko at Deception Pass, Washington. Photo credit Dennis Taylor

If you would like to be a part of the next United States Toy Photographers sponsored meet-up, stay tuned. I will announce the location and dates next week.


(header image courtesy of James Garcia)


  1. Tony Tulloch

    Oh wow, I cannot wait to see this! Congratulations to all involved. A special ‘I am not worthy’ bow to Leila, from one who knows (a little) of how hard it can be to shoot and edit video.

  2. WOOHOO! This was so much fun to watch together at the meetup in May, and I’m so glad it’s finally online and available to the public. Leila did a tremendous job editing this together. I’ve done a lot of video work myself and know how daunting it can be to have that many clips to sort through and turn into something watchable.

    She truly tackled this thing and delivered an amazing video that acts not only as a time capsule for a fun meetup, but a glimpse at what toy photography is. I think it’s something that even people unaware of toy photography could watch and enjoy.

    Congratulations Leila, thank you for all of the hard work you put into this. It definitely shows!

    • Thanks James!!! There’s so many great little clips! Lots of stuff that didn’t make it into the final cut. It was definitely hard to figure out how to make everything cohesive. But I love the final result and glad that people are digging it!

  3. You don’t need an index to watch this, just watch the whole thing! I did. 🙂

    Thank you for the wonderful documentary, I enjoyed it a lot. It was great to see the people and, on a more personal level, the familiar locations I have fond memories of. This was a well structured, informative and entertaining piece of work. Congratulations to all involved, especially Shelly and Leila.

  4. Claire Cardwell

    I watched the whole video in one sitting and I was blown away. What an amazing narrative. Loved seeing the real life creators of some of my favourite instagram accounts, and their tips and tricks for toy photography. I loved the camaraderie and inclusiveness captured in the footage. Congrats Leila and Toy Photographers, this is epic and I can’t wait to show it to my family and friends !!! xx

  5. brett_wilson

    Leila, you rock chick!
    Yes, I got to see this wonderful film in Oregon, but seeing it again (and again and again) really filled me joy. It was super cool seeing a lot of my friends from Oregon again. And it was cool to see some of the locations Shelly took me to too. that really gave me a sense of connection with the film. Thanks Shelly.
    So, it’s no wonder you’re an award winner Leila. I’m just happy I got to have a cuddle with you… before you become too famous to remember the likes of me!
    Top job!

    • Thank you Brett!!! I’m so glad you got to come over and see Seattle for yourself too! I love that some of the same folks continue to attend every year – such a grand get-together. I wish I could document each year because they’re so special!

      And whatever, I’ll never forgot you, silly! Sending virtual cuddles! xox

  6. Amazing. Delightful. Inspiring. Giggle-inducing. I LOVED it. And having left early in Oregon, I can now say it was worth the wait. Wonderful work Lovely Leila. And thanks Shelly for posting. Love and gratitude to you both. xo

  7. Such a professional video! Well done Leila. Great interviews, images, and editing. I’m sure that took a ton of work – over an hour long! Piecing all that together must’ve been daunting. I feel like I got to experience a bit of the fun first-hand. Thanks!

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