“There’s a vast difference between inspiration and imitation.”
Jamie Windsor recently released a video on nostalgia in photography, and while I tend to make response posts to things I disagree on, I whole heartedly agree with his video, and there are so many parallels to toy photography – this niche in which I reside. So let’s break this down.
Nostalgia is a very strong emotion, but no matter if we all went through the same things in the same time period, we will experience our nostalgia differently.
Because our feelings of nostalgia are so strong, and can often go hand in hand with our toy collections, it’s easy to want to portray all that we feel within the photos we make. This in toy photography often comes in the form of recreating a movie scene to the tee with lighting, posing, scenery. While these images can be impressive tests of what you’re capable of as a photographer, the scenes in themselves already exist in the movies we so admire. And because of this, as secondhand toy photographs, they are forgettable.
Often toy photographers, and I assume photographers in general, will try to emulate other photographers they admire. This can be an okay way to learn, but I suggest instead you break down what you admire from that specific photographer’s work, and what you like from other artists and art forms. Take that influence and turn it into something of your own. While hands on practice is of course important, the practice of forming compelling ideas is just, if not more, important as well, and when you simply make work based on that of others, you’re not practicing forming your own artistic ideas.
“Don’t limit yourself.”
You will no doubt draw from your experiences in your photographic work, and you should, but show us something we haven’t seen before. Take that nostalgia, and put yourself into it. Take for example Stranger Things in Jamie’s words: “But Stranger Things is good, not because it relies on nostalgia, but because underneath its narrative building blocks are solid. The characters have depth, the plot is engaging and the direction is captivating. And while it uses nostalgic elements, it combines them and it builds on them to create something of substance, to create something new.”
“Value is created in things by embracing the new.”
Embrace the changing world around you and pull influence in from your past and present then mix them all up together.
Check out Jamie’s video below. And let me know your thoughts in the comments!