Tourmaline .

Miniature Diorama Photographer

My One Photo that Changed it All

This post was originally published on Toy Photographers.


This is the story of the toy photo that set me on my path. From this photo, I never looked back. This, is my one photo that changed it all.

The longer it’s been since I made my college narrative project, the more I realize how defining it has been to my future photos.

The Series

5 images. A car, a car and a house, a man knocking on a door, a man handing a woman a box, and a woman standing alone with the box. Simple. Mostly.

I made the set with a model train N scale car, figures (about 1 cm tall) and house, scale model scenery and real dirt. Never had I delved into the world of train scale before, so when the items arrived in the mail the night before the project was due the heat was on in learning how to work with these tiny objects. I set up the scene on a foam block on my bathroom counter and lit it with my desk lamp. For the car images I used my kit zoom lens and for the figure close ups I reverse mounted my 50mm lens. I’d never reverse mounted or shot macro before either.

With all the research beforehand and all the difficulties during shooting I never once thought I should go another route. This was the narrative I needed to do and this was how I needed to do it.

Going Forward

This was the moment I became a toy photographer. I had found my niche, my passion and photography became so much clearer. Yes, to complete college assignments there were a few times I had to shoot full scale real people or places, but every chance I got I turned back to toys. I remember thinking, now that I had found where I needed to be photographically there was little point to learning these other methods – that’s a whole other cocky college kid problem in itself, but I think it helps narrate how set I was on this venture.

The one specific photo I’ve held dear from this series is the featured image here. It really made me realize how transformed toys can become through the camera lens and my goal through the rest of college was recreating that. And honestly, I don’t feel that any of the images I created in college after came near to what I accomplished off-handedly that first time.

In the 4 years since graduating I think I’ve been more successful. More focused. I was a very do what you have to do to get the grade and try no harder student. Since graduating and realizing I don’t have the same support system, I’ve been a lot more focused on continuing to improve my ideas and technique.

Not only do I continue to return to toys, I also have taken with me the theme of war. War motifs without action- using war as a metaphor for disaster, destruction, devastation, isolation, depression, etc.

So there you have it. My one photo that changed it all.

18 Responses to “My One Photo that Changed it All”

  1. daggerandbrush

    Very interesting read Jennifer. I think the photo has a very somber, even eerie atmosphere, but there is also nostalgia and the longing for a past that never was the way we remember it. Very evocative. I am also very interested to read that this is your preferred form of photography and main art style.

    I started out taking pictures of my scale models mainly to show them off on forums etc. in time I enjoyed telling stories with those pictures, just as you illustrate so aptly with your arrangements. Naturally in my case the meaning is straight forward, as the idea is to illustrate an article on historical events or a fantastical short story. What I enjoy most about your work that it goes beyond that and embodies more than what the eye can see. I feel quite inspired by your photos and may experiment myself with setups that depict a feeling or concept rather than being mostly illustrative.

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  2. dancingpalmtrees

    Reblogged this on Roaming Urban Gypsy and commented:

    This is Excellent News that I just had to share with my fellow photographers. Gives me hope plus being positive and uplifting! I am a Great Admirer and fan of Jennifer. Her miniature series fascinate and intrigue me. Please visit her blog in your Free time. It is wonderful!

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  3. Sabina Ayne

    Yep. The red car photo is one of my all time favs too! I hope you earned an A on that course. If not what was wrong with your prof?!

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  4. tms

    Ah, the red car! Still among my favourite pictures (and if I remember correctly, it was that picture that made me follow your blog).

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  5. Cathy Lynn Brooks

    This is a great post! I’ve been fascinated with tiny things for most of my life too. We inherited a drawer that used to belong to my father-in-law. He was a printer and the drawer held all the little letters that they used in the presses. My mother-in-law used to house tea figurines in it. When we got it I began searching for miniatures. Now I have a fairy garden that has tiny things in it. Your photography is amazing.

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