I will be frank with you, this is not an easy post for me to write, but it has been a long time in coming. The recent events in Beirut, Lebanon and Paris, France have made me realize I need to say my peace.
I have been a toy photographer for four years, and in that time I have noticed a shift away from stylized photos of toys and figurines towards realism and violence in the Instagram toy photography community. I do not know if this is due to the popularity of certain toys based on popular tv shows (Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead), comic book anti-heroes like Batman, Wolverine, Bane and Deadpool or comic book villains like The Joker and Harlequin. Maybe it is due to our constant quest for realism in conjunction with pushing the envelope of special effects. What ever the reason, I find this trend disturbing.
This is not a scientific report based on any sound clinical data, just a general unease I feel when I flip through the photos of those I follow or look through one of the Toy Pop sessions.* I have noticed over the last several months that as photographers have tried to bring their toys to life a lot of blood is getting shed. Gone are the days when a simply beautiful photo with nice bokeh would get you noticed. Now you need to fling some dirt to emulate flying debris and shed some blood. I follow some pretty impressive photographers and they are able to make this all look surprising realistic.
But it is not just the special effects that I find disturbing, but the apparent glorification of some extremely despicable characters that dominate our pop culture world. Who hasn’t seen a gloriously beautiful photo of The Joker or Darth Vader? I know it seems like an insignificant point, but I can’t help but think that every photo that glorifies these characters brings them, and their actions, a little closer to an acceptable norm.
In a world in which school shootings, beheadings and suicide bombers are on the front page of the newspapers (seemingly daily) I can’t decide if the violence I see in my feed is a reflection of the violence consuming our world or is it feeding the violence in some subtle way? Are we a society that is so numb to the chaos going on around us that it takes a toy being eviscerated to get our attention in the onslaught of images uploaded to the internet daily?
We here at Stuck in Plastic are all adults playing by adult rules and adult themes are not uncommon (any one remember Perv Woody?). But I also know that because we “play” with toys we have a responsibility to all the children and young adults who follow us on our preferred social media platform. I think it is imperative that we set a good example for our followers, that we reflect the values we want to see in our society played out in the photography that we post. Anything less is saying that we value violence above peace, blood above beauty.
These are extremely difficult topics to bring up and I know many of you won’t agree with me. But I sincerely believe that we each have the power to change our world and move to a path of peace and away from violence. Many of us have significant reach on our social media platforms and we should seek to use that reach to start a conversation, to set an example, to change the course of history.
I am not asking anyone to not show violence or the dark side of human nature. I am simply asking for the glorification to stop. The elevation of violence to an act of beauty when in reality it is often a cowardly action that has far reaching consequences. Many of which we rarely give a thought to.
I for one, am sick of seeing vigilante justice, mercenary anti-heroes and beheadings on my Instagram feed. Do people really think that somehow because they are toys that it is ok? Personally I think it makes it worse. We have the power to change our world, lets start acting like it. Let’s start posting photos that reflect the world we want, not the one we have.
How do you feel about toy on toy violence? Am I overreacting or do you feel the same way?
If you have a photo that reflects the world you dream of living in please tag it #toysforpeace. If we can visualize it, we can create it…together.
* Toy Pops are a way for new toy photographers to connect with other members of the community by participating in a “session” were you post one new image to a specific tag. You then like and comment on all the other photos in the same tag during the 45 minute session. If you want to know what the hip toys are that are being collected, or to see who the newest up and coming photographers are, Toy Pops a great place to explore.