Toy Photographers Podcast: Abyss – A Series of Choices

I learned that the concept of Abyss in toy photography reflects a series of personal choices. In the latest episode of The Toy Photographers Podcast, Kristina and I discuss our images and two submissions from the community.

As our discussion progressed, it became clear that while everyone started with the same word, the artistic choices made at every step of the process led to dramatically different results. Several themes emerged from the group submissions: solitude, mystery and seriousness with an occasional bit of whimsy and color.

Listen to the full episode here:

“If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

Frederick Nietzsche

The images in order of discussion

Too Close for Comfort by Shelly Corbett
Just One More Chapter by Joshua Kittleson
The Social Media Abyss by Sunny Ang

A series of choices

As always, thank you to everyone who participated in this month’s challenge. You really exemplified the fact that expressing a concept in photography is a series of choices. How you crop, when you pull the trigger or how you present an image, as well as the props you use, each represents a piece of the story you tell the viewer.

Kristina and I loved the variety and thoughtfulness that went into all the images. Please check out the hashtag #tp_podcast_abyss and enjoy the many unique interpretations.

Next up

Abyss is a challenging concept to interpret. Now it’s time to turn our attention to a word with a whole new set of challenges: Kindness. We encourage you to create an image using any toy of your choice that conveys your vision of Kindness.

As we’ve seen in past challenges, setting limitations stimulates creativity. We appreciate everyone who takes the time to think deeply about their photos and create work that is meaningful to them. Kristina and I look forward to seeing your interpretations of Kindness.

Please tag your submissions by Aug 21 (also Mr. Wilson’s birthday!) using the hashtag #tp_podcast_kindness. This way we can find your photos on either Instagram or in our MeWe community and feature them. We will choose two images from the community to discuss that we believe represents overarching themes on Kindness.

Until next time…

~ Shelly


  1. Wow, another great episode!
    I like when you’re talking about ideas and all this creative process, preceding pressing the shutter, it sounds so obvious, so easy, while I know that it’s not easy at all. And I really enjoy the “what it means for me” attitude. In my entries I made use of texts and contexts, I tried rather to catch the mood than show what abyss means for me. I actually didn’t think about that, or at least not intentionally.
    I like your approach.

    Thanks again for fantastic listen!

    • kristina

      thank you 🙏 – I’m so glad to hear that we have diffrent approaches. Context is important, and looking at your work I love the fact that you let the images work with the texts. I’m specially found of the Lovecraft – homage, there is something existential in that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      • …on the other hand I feel that by combining photos with text I’m taking shortcuts and this approach is more superficial than your theme and image analysis, which is not a literal treatment of the theme. But maybe it’s only me.

        Thank You so much for kind words about Lovecraft homage. I was convinced that Lovecraft wrote words that fit perfectly with the theme of the abyss of space and meaningless of humanity, but it turned out to be just my imagination. So I created a Lovecraft-style “quote” myself and I filled it with the spirit of his works as much as possible.

        And You’re right about the existential meaning of this text. Lovecraft created a philosophy called cosmicism, which in my opinion derives somewhat from existentialism:
        1. the finite man meets the infinite
        2. man is surrounded by nothingness ,
        But cosmicism rejects all human efforts and concerns as completely trivial in the face of the void of space.

        I’m looking forward to listen to another episode!

  2. Matthew Wyjad

    I had an underwater experience that didn’t have quite the same effect on me (i still love being underwater), but was also a very strong reminder of the “this is not my element” that is the ocean.
    It was the end of a dive off the shore of Utila (island off the coast of Honduras), and i saw a cave at the base of the wall. I was getting low on air, but i decided to check out the opening at the very least. When i got to the mouth there was a school of glassy sweepers (small round shiny fish) hovering in the opening. Although it was mid morning i had a flashlight. As I swept it across the school, the shining mass parted and my beam lit up the face of a goliath grouper just as it opened it’s gaping maw. My adrenaline spiked as i slammed shut and it turned and darted deeper into the cave.
    For those of you who haven’t seen one… imagine a 6ft long 500lbs bass (they can get to be 8ft long and 800lbs). I have not dove with sharks yet… but even at the aquarium, a grouper is one of the most intimidating animals I’ve ever scene, partly because it looks like an ordinary bass that you could catch anywhere… but it’s MASSSIVe… It makes you feel like you just shrunk and somethung that you are normally master over has suddenly grown to twice your size and the tables have turned. Your sense of scale is turned on end and you realize how small (creatures) things feel.
    Long story short, i passed my light on to the dive master who went after it as i booked it for the boat with about 200psi of air left. He said later he nearly pooped his pants because he didn’t find it until in bumped him from behind and flashed off into the dark again…. the ocean is wild.

  3. ang cheng ann

    Always look forward to these podcasts early in the morning. Thanks Kristina and Shelly for picking my shot for discussion and your kind words. I was partly inspired by your earlier article, Shelly, when you wrote about creating work that is worthy. I wanted to create something that has a slightly thought provoking message rather than my usual nonsensical stuff. In fact, my first instinct was to shoot a Lego bee minifigure with the caption A-BEE, but Matthew beat me to it with his fun A-BITH series!

    I enjoyed both your discussion on my photo….Always interesting how your photos are interpreted by others. The photo was mostly a self portrait and to remind myself not to spend too much time on social media…of which clearly has not work cause here I am now writing this reply! Hahaha.

    Looking forward to the next podcast and the next challenge! Keep up the good work.

  4. Janan

    Always a delight to hear both your discussions and deep dives into different tangents. A photography is made up of a series of creative decisions is something I agree with. What’s unique to me in your images is the breaking of traditional rules of focus and composition. To me, those conscious decisions made are part of the greater narrative of the image, to make that picture tell the tale the way the artist intended.

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