You do what?

You do what?

Actually, what is it I do?

I’ve been asked why I do what I do by Stuck In Plastic before. I’ve been asked how I do what I do before on Instagram. I’ve been asked who are my favourite figures. I’ve even been asked when is my favourite time to do it. But recently I was asked what I do, and the question threw me.

In this forum, the question doesn’t get asked. We all do the same, or similar. But, outside the toy photography community, explaining what we do often results in bamboozled looks. “You play with toys? And you take photos of them?”

There’s a stigma attached when explaining toy photography to someone unfamiliar with the concept; a dirty little secret, the unconventional, dirty laundry, or hobby huggermugger. Or is there?

What exactly is toy photography? And how do I explain it to someone who has never heard of such a thing?

For me, the terms “toy photography” and “art form” have been strange bedfellows. Do I consider what I do art? Do I dare put myself in the same class as artists that I admire? Am I parallel to Pettibon? Am I similar to Smith? Do I break even with Banksy or BLU? No! Don’t get me wrong, I do think of other toy photographers as artists; I’ve just never considered myself to be one. I just take photos of toys.

“I just take photos of toys.”

Hearing this statement escape my mouth, I think of the Dada art movement, Duchamp, and his “readymades”; everyday objects found or purchased and presented as art with little manipulation by the artist. According to Dadaism, anything can be art, including photographs of toys, found or purchased.

I don’t believe in art. I believe in artists.
– Marcel Duchamp

The term anti-art, a precursor to Dada, is applied to an array of concepts and attitudes that reject prior definitions of art and question art in general. My preconceptions of what is art, and what I do “not” being art, should be questioned. Maybe what I do is art?

So when asked what I do, should I shun away from admitting to my “dirty little secret”? Is it just easier to avoid answering the question rather than labouring over an explanation of what it actually is? Should I be uncomfortable admitting, “I just take photos of toys”? Do I “just” take photos of toys? No!

I’ve decided to declare a war against my own mediocrity. I renounce the self-effacing me.

From now on, when asked what I do, I’ll boldly and proudly explain, “I take photos of toys! I’m a toy photographer!”

“Loud and Proud”

“Morning Musing”

“Sky Fishing”


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8 years ago

Latly I have started to say that I shot macro and toyphotography. Then I have to explain toyphoto, how I try to make the minifigs become alive. Most people look at me like I am an alien or something, but I am used to it. Shooting macro is laying on the ground, shooting toyphoto is laying on the ground..samesame for me. I think people are strange who shoot flowers from a distance, so I can somehow understand what they think of me ;) If it is art, no art och antiart I don’t know. I just do what I do… Read more »

8 years ago

I love this post, it reminds me of this one –

Of course the image you took beats mine by a mile. I almost think this image should be the unofficial toy photographers anthem. It pretty much says it all: punk ethos, a who cares attitude, impeccable presentation and yes, it includes the ubiquitous storm trooper. :)

Nicely done Brett!

8 years ago

I was once asked whether I was working for a toy company (and that’s why shooting the photo of a toy) :)

Very nice photo, by the way..

James Garcia
8 years ago

Great post, Brett! I’m glad that you cast your nervousness aside and now proudly exclaim your toy photography to the world! I too struggled with similar circumstances, as I’m sure many toy photographers have.

As I almost exclusively use Lego in my toy photography, I just tell people I’m a Lego photographer, which may actually confuse them even more. Recently I decided to start carrying around some business cards, featuring one of my best photos and links to my social sites – a quick way to visually explain what it is I’m talking about when I get those confused looks!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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