Connecting through Toys

I always wonder why I do what I do. Not in a negative or judgmental sense, but just because I like knowing myself.

As far as toys, miniatures and toy photography I’ve written and spoken about their draw numerous times. Here’s a few:

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.

Although some of my friends did have vastly different opinions than me on what Barbie should be doing with her life. Some shocking at a young age, but maybe this speaks to what we each saw in our personal lives. I always wanted someone to have a broken leg, a phenomenon I had never experienced, but I wanted to nurture said figure back to health. I don’t remember ever having Barbie date, my tiny self couldn’t care less about such things. My cul-de-sac neighbor however, who had a teenaged older sister, wanted Barbie to go on dates, make out with Ken, and give birth. There was a crucial step missing there, but we didn’t know that at the time. Another neighbor’s Barbie was quite depressed, but that’s a story for another time.

I’m sure child psychologists analyze how children play as a clue into their inner workings all the time. I know they use drawings to analyze the same.

And while I’m not a psychologist, and have not spoken to one about my use of toys in my artistic work, I’ve been thinking about my ongoing relationship with toys and tiny things.

For this past Christmas, I got my boyfriend’s mom a 40th anniversary Lonely Doll set that included a mini color reprint of the first book and a replica doll and teddy bear. The original book by Dar Wright came out in 1957, therefore this set was released in 1997, considered an antique itself now. I learned about the photography and writings of Dare Wright through Tracy (my boyfriend’s mom). They were her favorite books as a child and she opened my eyes to this very early toy photography, that seems to be missing from the toy photography conversation, even though the books themselves were so highly recognized at the time. A toy and book set I now feel a connection to Tracy through.

Also, for Christmas, I got my dad a 50th anniversary Hot Wheels set. 7 black and gold mini cars, models of the original toys released by the brand. My sister and I grew up playing with some of my dad’s old Hot Wheels, I brought home a decent selection of mini cars I photographed at work as a gift for my boyfriend’s nephew, and my dad wanted to look through them, he still talks about his larger collection he had as a kid that his mom got rid of, and was excited when we found a few of his cars in a box in the attic from my parent’s recent move. Toys, again, that I connect with him through.

My photography isn’t about nostalgia, it’s about telling stories, although it is nostalgia for some toy photographers. I see toys as a way of forming connections, because I think, most of us, if presented with toys of our childhood, would feel that nostalgia, that wonder. And no matter if you still choose to bring toys into your adult life, they will always hold a special place in your heart because of how they formed you through childhood. Because of this, you connect with them too, the icons of plastic and miniaturized worlds speak to you, maybe even in a deeper way than photos of real, full sized people ever could. But I’ll leave that last little bit up to your own opinion.

6 thoughts on “Connecting through Toys

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  1. I have never understood why adults are supposed to put aside toys, old or new. They are great ways to connect through the generations. My mom collected marbles of all kinds. One of my sisters collects old dolls, another collects Cracker Jack prizes.

  2. Your comments about the life of you and your friends’ Barbies are very interesting. So many people say that she has been a bad role model for girls but in these cases, the dolls were mirroring what the children saw in real life and wanted to play out. My fashion dolls never dated either, just as well as we didn’t have any boy dolls.

    1. I can’t of course say whether Barbie’s body has ever been damaging to children, but she was just a doll like any other to me and my friends. I think adults read a lot more into things than children do. How would kids even know to have body image issues, or care about the bodies of others had they not learned it from adults? As far as boy dolls, they were my favorites in Barbie’s and other dolls, but they were typically brothers, I imagine because I had wanted a little brother.

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