What Is Normal and How Can Toy Photography Portray it? A New Podcast

Kristina and I got together the other day and discussed what is normal and how can toy photography portray it. This conversation follows our previous podcast discussion about the topic: Escape.

Community submissions

Even with a crazy global pandemic in full swing, we had a couple of community submissions for this session. It’s always a pleasure to see how other community members approach these topics. Because while we have our ideas, we know there are many ways to depict these themes. Our first submission was created by frequent contributor Doug (@doughleyg). While Kristina an I both liked the image, we definitely disagree on the meaning. Is Doug talking about death or our how we perceive and define “normal?”

“You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous…” – John Steinbeck, East of Eden (Image by Doug Gary)

Our other submission was by Astrid (@hey.light) whose image made us both smile. But even a picture as normal as this brought out a difference of opinion about the composition.

“LIFE and a cat, that gives an incredible SUM” – Rainer Maria Rilke (Image by Astrid Heyland)

Our submissions

Kristina’s image harkened back to her classic stormtrooper images. These early works often use the familiar stormtrooper character to portray intimate moments between a parent and child. This new version continues that theme.

Because I knew that I would be discussing my photo with Kristina, who has high standards, I spent a long time thinking about my image. In fact, I spent so much time thinking, I was late for our appointed recording session. By an entire day!

Normal by Shelly Corbett

The challenge

Kristina challenged me to recreate the above image with different central figures. Do you think this was a successful experiment? Does your attitude towards the image change depending the central figure? Please leave your comments below and we will share them in our next podcast.

Next up: Hope

So far Kristina and I have discussed Escape and Normal. Now we will turn our attention to Hope. I think it is fair to say that this pandemic and other world events have affected how we are approaching our photography.

We would love to see your images of Hope. When you think of this word, what comes to mind? How will you represent this idea in an image using a toy or toys? If you would like your image considered for our next conversation please post it to Instagram or our MeWe community and tag it #TP_podcast_Hope. Feel free to tag Kristina (@KAlexanderson) or myself (@shellycorbettphotography) directly and we will be sure to see them.

Thank you all for listening and for your kind comments about our last podcast. We hope you’re enjoying our deep dives into these ideas and how they shape the images we create and the stories we tell.

See you next time!


  1. Kristina

    <3 <3 <3

    A short reflection! I prefer the figures with closed eyes – there is something about the thought of being in yourself that get's lost when the figure is looking at all the people travelling by…
    I love the way you work with troopers and Darth with Leia – but I think the highlights are to bright – bring them down in her image, I Think that will work better.
    Number four, makes me all dizzy, I feel sick like I'm going to through up.
    I love number five – contemplation in it's essens… I wonder about the dress though – what is it? And why?
    Son of man – I'm so impressed.

    Did you change the tripod between the shots?

  2. I loved listening the conversation you two had! Having my own pic in the company of three of my favorite toy photographers is such a treat, too. And then listening to your take on each of the four pics — including mine — was really fun and enlightening. What a great episode Shelly & Kristina! Bravi!! I’m excited for HOPE up next — is there an official deadline? Love to you both in this crazy time.

    • Kristina

      Thanks Doug, I truly loved your work and I look forward to see what you do for ”hope”. We have set the recording date on the 27th of June (deadline 26th? or 27th if you dare).

      take care! /k

  3. Joshua T Kittleson

    For Doug’s photo, It says to me that behind every new definition of normal there is a negative past. Its always going to be there, but keep moving forward. If the past was good why did we take steps to change it?
    Excellent work everyone!

    • I love all the interpretations and yours is amazing Josh! And so on point for this moment in time. Hope you’re well. Thanks for all of the editing magic you do to keep the community listening & connecting.

  4. Wow! I love to listen to You both!
    It’s so natural and so well told. I totally love this digression about time and the Kristina’s story about taking kids to school. That’s what was perfectly normal for us few months ago. We also went to pre-school and the school altogether and we commuted to work together with my wife. And I really miss these normal mornings so I totally identify with You!

    And I hope (!) I’ll be able one day to take such multilayered picture like Doug. I love how You divide the picture to pieces.

    Thank You!

    • Oh Tomek. What a great comment to post here. I agree with all you said, and our family misses the hopelessness normal routines of school and work, too. And, to be clear, these two amazing women photographers found things in my photo that I now see only thanks to their insights!!! (But don’t tell anyone — I’d prefer to be the photographer they saw from that photo; maybe some day!)

  5. Janan

    As always, it’s so enjoyable listening to the both of you including the deep dive tangents. I’d listened to the podcast awhile back but hadn’t penned my thoughts till now. I’d a few thoughts when I saw your images.

    For Kristina’s father & son theme, it does remind me that it is a “normal” that many boys/men in society do crave, having missed out on a father figure for various reasons. With Shelly’s moment-in-the-crowd image, it speaks to me a little differently from the original inspiration. I have a nephew who sits on the Asperger’s syndrome and when he was young, he would experience difficulties in crowded social environments. It would trigger a defensive reflex in which he would cover his ears and talk aloud to himself – that helped me to “normalise” the situation.

    I thought those were interesting points that spoke to me in your images! I’d tagged 1 of my images on IG for the theme but might have just missed the dateline then!

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