“Never have I found the limits of the photographic potential. Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance. Always, I am on the threshold.”
-W. Eugene Smith
So I’ve been writing all these post about toy photos that fooled the world and I had a thought, what if I made some of my own.
I highly doubted that in today’s technological world my photos would fool the world in the way that these historical photos have. It’s easier to fool the world when the only access to photos is grainy, black and white images in newspapers and magazines. I thought I’d try anyway because I simply wanted to see what came of it.
I’ve made some creature photos in the past, and seeing that fairies and the Loch Ness monster did so well in history, cryptoids seemed like the way to go. I’d already pegged Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster as photo possibilities, and had an ho scale (2cm tall) Bigfoot, and a plastic Brontosaurus (Loch Ness Monster) at the ready. So now just to decided how to photograph and share the images.
Why wouldn’t there be more creature sightings in a world where animals are out and about more than ever with humans away?
Loch Ness Monster
So first photo to create was Nessie, the Loch Ness monster. A plastic underbed storage container, warm water, a couple Crayola bath colorant tabs, and a roughly painted backdrop to match a view from one edge of Loch Ness. Then I ended up using a fog machine to introduce more ambiance. Nessie here is a cheap plastic dinosaur, and it was pretty obvious in clearer images. I tied metal nuts to the dinos legs to keep it from floating, and photographed through the plastic of the bin so that I could shoot straight on.
The next photo up was Bigfoot. He’s largely sighted in the Redwood forest, and while the Bigfoot idea came to me first, it took me longer to decide how to photograph it. I ended up using almost all the trees in my small scale scenery arsenal, including some I’d gotten from a train show and had never put to use. Those larger train show trees were my redwood stand ins. I dry-brushed some deep red and yellow onto their textured trunks to introduce some color variation. Which ended up not being seen in the final photo, but I wanted to cover all bases.
Sharing the images online
I created a new gmail account under a fake name then used that email address to create a Reddit account. I didn’t want these images asociated with me, because that would be a dead giveaway to their staged nature.
I posted the bigfoot image in the subreddit r/Bigfoot. Well, because it’s very fitting. Here people share bigfoot memes, news about potential sightings, etc.
I posted the image, with the post title as “Do you see this? Bald Hills Rd, CA” and well 36 minutes in and I’d been called out. There was someone who thought it was a costume which was encouraging, because if it’s a costume then the forest was convincingly real.
After the first diorama comment came in, more followed. Darn internet and people having access to diorama images…
A couple days later I posted Nessie onto imgur. While there is a Loch Ness monster subreddit, I wanted to give another platform a try. Imgur is a photo sharing site. You can tag images, but otherwise there’s not a real structure as to where they show up. Maybe I should have gone with Reddit again, but who really knows.
I shared even less info this time, just posted 2 images from the shoot and titled the post “Nessie.” It got 80 views and 2 downvotes…No comments, so I can’t be sure what led to the down-votes, but there it stood.
About a week later I deleted the posts and began writing this one.
I could have left them up, but the reddit one was leading to questions I had no intention of answering. I could have maybe furthered the narrative, as I had well researched my locations, but I wanted only to see how the photos would stand on their own.
The girls who created the Cottingly Fairy images entertained guests and answered questions, but no one else in the history of toy photo trickery ever did.
Maybe I’ll just continue to let my mysterious photos be and see what comes of it. My stair image, having been posted here and on the story it was in response to on r/nosleep, got used on a forum as possible proof of random stairs in the woods. And that was without any prompting on my part.
Outside of toy photography
All this said, it’s not only toys used to fool the world photographically. And maybe, while I can’t say I’m encouraging it, if you’re wanting to engage in photo trickery, it’s best to do so with a subject that currently has a grip on the world, which is the case for all the toy photo foolery we’ve discussed so far.