Its funny, it seems that for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a photographer. I can even remember my first ‘photo studio’. I was about eight or nine, and I had set up a studio, complete with a light, backdrop and props, in my parents dining room. I even bribed my awesome cat, Sammy, with some treats to get him to pose as my ‘model’. I actually still have some of these pictures from my first ‘photo shoot’.
I also remember my first camera… it was a top quality Fisher Price model. It was made of cheap plastic and required 110 film and flash bulbs… High tech stuff! It is ironic, really, that my first camera was a toy, and that even today, with all of my high-priced, high-tech, fancy-schmancy digital gear, that my favorite camera of all time is… a toy.
I find toy photography to be a refreshing change of pace. Shooting weddings and portraits requires me to be hyper-aware of the technical side of things. I must pay close attention to, and make snap decisions on, my exposure, shutter, aperture, depth of field, composition, lighting and motion all the while discreetly anticipating and capturing an intimate moment between a bride and groom. All of these decisions must be made and acted on in an instant and without error. While oddly enough, this seems to come naturally to me, ten straight hours of this can take a creative toll on a person.
This is what I love about toy photography. It takes away the technical side of things, the fancy glass, the speedy focus. You are left with just you and your subject matter. Free to focus all of your attention on your composition and your connection to your subject. Having no control of depth of field and limited control over focus, it encourages you to think more creatively. All the while, knowing that there is not guarantee in the outcome and that you really have no idea what, if anything, will develop in the tank.
That’s another thing. The waiting. While the instant gratification that digital grants us today is certainly more practical in a professional sense, there is something to be said about the anticipation of seeing what will develop in your Patterson tank. Having to wait days, or sometimes weeks to see the images, emotionally removes me from them. When I first see them developed, I am in a different frame of mind and am able to see the images from a different perspective.
Toy photography encourages me to think more creatively and not get hung up on the technical side of things. In turn, this reminds me of what my true focus is when I am standing in front of a client with my latest and greatest Nikon digital. Whoda thought?
While these two images are certainly nothing spectacular, it is their simplicity that draws me to them. These were taken with my favorite toy camera in late fall, 2006…