Toy photography, while in itself a form of fabricated or tableau photography, has a way of spanning across all genres of the medium. This is one of the many many things I love about toy photos. Through toys we can tell stories, document places, record our travels, explore tiny details, the list goes on. To highlight the magic of toy photos and all the things they can come to represent I thought I’d create some posts of different photo genres and where toys fit within them.
Portrait: a pictorial representation of a person usually showing the face
– Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Artistic representations of people began with cave paintings and have been a part of all cultures since. Quite simply they are representations of people. Toy figures themselves are representations of the same, and thus so are our photographs of them.
Learn more about the history of artistic portraits here.
“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.”
– Paul Caponigro
A human face can tell us a lot about the person, through their expression, wrinkles, sunspots, makeup, etc. A toy face is a bit different. Typically expressionless are bound to one emotion, we have to find ways to tell the figure’s story for them through posing, lighting and other props. While toys come in many varieties, using human like figures in your photos can truly help your audience relate – through these plastic, inanimate objects the viewers can see themselves.
And thus, we give toy figures a voice by making portraits of them.
Do you ever take portrait-like images of your toy figures? Do you take portraits of real people? What do you like about portraiture? Tell me about it and leave a link to a photo in a comment below.
Toys R Us was the first ever big box toy store. A realized dream of its creator Charles Lazarus. Coming back from war Lazarus noticed a hole in the market, considering all the soldiers were talking about coming back and starting families. While his first store, selling baby furniture was opened in 1948, Children’s Bargain Store was transformed into Toys R Us in 1957.
And business boomed. New toys like Barbie and Mr. Potato Head were being produced. And TV toy ads were telling kids to buy from Toys R Us.
Fast forward to the 1980s and Toys R Us introduced its iconic Toys R Us Kid commercial jingle. And Geoffrey the Giraffe had been promoting the brand for 7 years now.
Miniature versions of everyday grocery packaging are all the rage!
I’m a product photographer by day, and a miniature diorama photographer on nights and weekends. I largely photograph grocery store packaging. So when I see tiny versions of the products I handle all day, I’m so hooked. I’m not the only one though it appears.
“If current trends in plastic production and waste management continue, the plastic debris housed in landfills and natural environments — currently 4.9 billion metric tons — will more than double by 2050”
– PBS News Hour
Much of the plastic we use in our daily lives is not degradable and therefore just sits in landfills, in oceans, etc. Reducing our plastic consumption has become a global concern. Not only does the amount of plastic filling our oceans greatly impact our sea creatures, plastic in consumer products has begun to show negative health risks in humans.
“Plastic has been found in more than 60% of all seabirds and in 100% of sea turtles species, that mistake plastic for food…Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments.”
Exposure to plastic additives effect our health involving fertility, neuro-development, thyroid function and even cancer. Many additives remain untested.
Quite some time ago, I published this info on this site, but I’ve since reformatted for readability and published again. This post and my history of toy photography post will both be making their way into a whole new deep dive soon. I hope you’ll find it useful.
Miniatures have taken the world by storm. And why wouldn’t they? The internet allows the spread of their tiny glory to miniacs all over the world. But they have a hugely amazing history, dating back to ancient Egypt, if not further, and I think that history needs to be explored.
3rd Millennium BC (Old Kingdom Egypt)
The earliest known examples of dollhouses. These included wooden models of servants, furnishings, boats, livestock and pets and were placed in pyramids for religious purposes.
Mesopotamia/ Iron Age/ Ancient Egypt (3000s BC)
Mesopotamian clay tablets considered the first miniature books.
Miniature artwork in the Egyptian papyrus manuscripts.
Iron Age/Roman West votive offerings and grave gods.
Salisbury hoard detailed miniaturized bronze shields. So detailed they are later used by archaeologists to learn about their full-scale counterparts.
American Pre-Columbian (1st millennium BC to 16th Century AD)
Small-scale architectural effigies are made in ceramic, stone, wood and metal.
Early Roman (753 BC — 476 AD)
Less representational miniature Roman weapons produced.
Late Roman (late 3rd — mid 4th centuries AD)
Mithrassymbole — detailed bronze miniatures of farming implements, snakes, lizards and frogs placed in wealthy female burial sites around Cologne.
Medieval Period (5th to 15th Century)
The word “miniature” is derived from the pigment used in the small, detailed art of illuminated manuscripts — “minium.”
Peter Schoffer publishes Diurnale Mogantinum — the first traditional miniature book.
Ancient Peru/ Inca Empire (13th to 16th Century)
Miniature feathered clothing and gold, silver and copper figurines made as religious offerings.
Earliest known European dollhouses called baby houses. These were cabinet display cases with individual rooms, trophy collections made for adults.
Small toy tea sets, made from pewter and copper first created in Germany.
Rise of the use of maquettes during the baroque period — small models of planned sculptures. Also referred to as plastico, modello, bozzetto or sketch. This date could potentially be earlier in history.
Smaller doll houses with more realistic exteriors appeared in Europe.
Porcelain manufacture led to the resurgence of children’s tea sets.
First model train engines created as prototype steam engines.
Shipwrights build scale ships as demonstration prototypes.
Late 18th — Early 19th Century (Industrial Revolution)
Dollhouses began being mass produced in factories by Christian Hacker, Moritz, Gottschalk, Elastolin, Moritz Reichel in Germany, and Silber & Fleming, Evans & Cartwright, Lines Brothers (later Tri-ang) in the UK.
Early 19th Century (start of WWI)
Germany’s popular dollhouse manufacturing declines.
More cost-effective children’s tea sets produced from bakelite and celluloid and dolls’ tea sets emerge with the invention of celluloid dolls.
UK company Stevens’ Model Dockyard produces miniature brass locomotives.
Small scale commercial train models produced.
Model trains become more available.
US company Eugene Beggs of New Jersey begins making steam models.
Late 1800s — 1940s
Salesman samples produced.
End of the 19th Century
The Bliss Manufacturing Company begins making dollhouses in the US.
Germany’s Markland Company is the first to use a numerical model train gauge system.
Clockwork model horseless carriages date back to this time. These are the earliest miniature automobiles.
TynieToy Company of Providence, Rhode Island makes authentic replicas of American antique houses. Other notable early 20th century American dollhouse companies include Roger Williams Toys, Tootsietoy, Schoenhut, Wisconson Toy Co.
Meccano Ltd. Introduces a set of six die cast scale model cars to go with their O scale model train line — Dinky Toys.
First plastic models manufactured by Frog in the UK.
First wooden scale model automobile kits produced by Ace and Berkley.
First plastic automobile kits produced by Revell.
American companies began producing plastic models. These companies included Hawk, Varney, Empire, Renwal, and Lindberg.
Dollhouses are mass produced in larger scales with less detail.
More companies began production of plastic models. In the US – Aurora, Revell, AMT, Monogram, UK- Airfix, Matchbox, France- Heller SA, Italy- Italeri, ESCI, Former Soviet Union- Novo, Japan- Fujima, Nichimo, Bandai.
Automobile models originally made as sales promotional items become popular with the public. AMT begins producing 1:25 scale models to meet this demand.
Most dollhouses are made with sheet metal and contain plastic furniture. They are relatively inexpensive and available to developed western countries.
AMT starts producing model car kits.
Tamiya began manufacturing plastic model aircraft kits.
Japanese companies Hasegawa and Tamiya dominate the plastic model industry.
Chinese companies DML, AFV Club and Trumpeter join Hasegawa and Tamiya at the top of the plastic model industry.
Tamiya reissues a small selection of plastic model aircraft kits.
Over the course of multiple years, I wondered why we all love miniatures so much, why I was so enthralled by their magic. And throughout this time I read Susan Stewart’s ‘On Longing’ and a reactionary blog series to that book. And I fell somewhere in between. So I continued to pull information from all sources I could find pertaining to this topic and the above video and below transcript are the result. And finally I felt and still feel like the urge to pursue this topic has left me, the voracious inquiry is no longer, but hopefully this will help you in yours.
This might seem off topic for this space, but it is about me, and does effect my art making and while I realize my health issues are far from the worst, I’m hoping those of you who have gone through something similar can see you’re not alone and I’m also hoping to further the conversation about how medical professionals, and the world as a whole, need to take women seriously (and well, people in general).
In July of 2017 I began to get vibrations up my right leg that would radiate through my spine and right arm. Imagine placing 5 cell phones on vibrate into your right thigh, and that’s roughly the sensation I was experiencing. I was also constantly tired.
But the first 2 are generalized lists, for the world as a whole, and while the last talks about my coming into the photography of toys, I think my relationship with toys goes farther back in my history.
You may say this is obvious. Toys are a very important part of childhood. Through them we learn and role play the outside world, they help us develop our gender identities, spatial awareness, problem solving, etc. So, in this, my childhood was little different than that of other children in a similar economic class in America at the time. I lined up my beanie babies, and dressed and re-dressed my barbies, just like anyone else. Read more