Toy Photography…an incomplete history

I was talking with my toy photo buddy Bricksailboat yesterday about the history of toy photography. We have both tried to research this topic and have found there is very little information about this movement on the internet. I thought that now is a good time to start pooling our knowledge and writing a brief history of toy photography.

What began as a few people posting images onto Flickr (and more recently onto Instagram) has grown into a huge world wide community of toy collectors and photographers sharing and supporting their passion. I have heard more times than I can count the experience of some new member of the community say that when they came to Instagram and discovered that there were already people taking photographs, how happy they were to know they weren’t alone.

It has taken social media to bring these very far flung, disparate people together to feed off each others energy and grow this community into what we see today. Lately this movement seems to be taking on a life of it’s own. I see other photographers, like myself, showing their work in galleries. Most recently Zahir Batin who will be exhibiting his excellent storm trooper pics in Malaysia. I truly wish him well because his success is all of our success.

I remember the first images that I saw that showed me what the possibilities could be. These were by Vesa Lehtimäki, better known as Avanaut. Since Vesa has been shooting toys since 2009 I like to think of him as one of the founding fathers of our movement.

But toy photography is not only a social media phenomenon. There is already a variety of photographers showing their toy photography in the more traditional art world like Brian McCarthy. His Art-Toys and War-Toys books are incredible.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of people all over the world using toys to express themselves and create amazing art. I look forward to continuing my research and seeing who else is out there.

~ xxsjc

Who was your inspiration to take it to the next level?
I’d like to start a list of influential toy photographers, who should be on it?

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Lyn Miller-Lachmann
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Have you seen the documentary Marwencol? It’s about an upstate New York man with a severe disability who started creating scenes from GI Joe and Barbie, photographed them, and has now shown his work in galleries in New York City. In fact, his work has inspired me greatly in terms of storytelling through toy photography and also using miniature stickers and other customizations to add realism.