THE CAPTIVE SUBJECT
THE JOY OF TOY PHOTOGRAPHY
People sometimes ask why I don't graduate from my specialism of toy photography into the more "respectable" fields of
portraiture or still life photography. I have dabbled in both, but keep returning to my own, beloved task. In attempt
to explain why that is, I undertook an analysis of why I keep coming back for more.
I can take my time. I like to think carefully about the set, lighting and composition. I like to go away, come back
again and change things as often as I want. I like to have time to experiment. I can happily spend three or four hours
producing one shot. A human model would not be as patient as are my small, plastic people.
I have complete control. The subject can be whoever I want and will do whatever I want. I donít have to worry
about their comfort or what they might think about what I am creating or how I am creating it. They are the silent,
It is convenient. As my subjects and sets are always available, I can shoot whenever I have a flash of inspiration or
There are plenty of opportunities for going ghetto. Being small scale, toy photography lends itself perfectly to a
ghetto approach, building your own sets, props, even lighting equipment. This requires you to go back to basics and
build from the idea up. The satisfaction of making a diffuser and barn doors out of a cereal packet and some
stryofoam sheeting is also not to be underestimated.
I get to work with objects I enjoy. Research has found that viewing miniature scenes calms people and lowers their
blood pressure. I love miniature things. Choosing, handling and arranging tiny props is a joy in itself. Having
pygmalionist tendencies, I also greatly enjoy working with my miniature artificial life.
I get to show other people the things that I am excited about and proud of, my dolls and figures. Hopefully, they also
gain some enjoyment from this.
I get to realise my fantasy world. I can use photographs as a means by which to make the characters on which my
dolls and figures are based more alive than if I tried to paint or write about them. To the extent that the toys and
their world are made to look real, they become real.
Related to this, is the opportunity for play. As an adult, with a responsible job and life, there are few opportunies for
the type of play that totally engages the mind and makes time fly. Some people embark on role plays with their doll-
based characters, returning to the types of games that engrossed them in childhood. I produce photographs of their
lives. It involves the same process of imagination, of creativity and of living temporarily inside an identity that is not
one's own. Presenting the resulting photograph involves other people in the game. They view and thereby participate
in the world I have created. This process also includes a justifcation for such activity; I get a photogtraph at the end
of it. Justified play. That is how I see what I do.
I hope with these arguments that I have convinced you of the value of toy photography and perhaps, just perhaps,
encouraged you to try it for yourself.