Keep Doing You

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a million times again. Own what you do. Have confidence in your passions. Just because someone else doesn’t understand it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue it or that you should hide it.

I recently read this article. A man rediscovered his childhood love of miniature soldiers during quarantine. With his job back on, and Zoom meetings in full force, rather than let his coworkers see his miniature war build behind him on Zoom, he stored away his passion. But then, he wrote about the experience. Some part of him is proud of it, but he wanted to distance himself a bit. Maybe his coworkers don’t look up his name or read his articles, it’s hard to say.

Figure kneels at dollhouse in all grey environment, toy photograph by Tourmaline .
Monochrome 9

There’s been multiple articles about people discovering miniature photography in quarantine, and they’re being praised – here for example, and rightfully so, but shouldn’t that open the door for more people to, at minimum, pursue a similar passion?

This following my example in my last similar post about seeing someone’s Instagram caption in which they were trying to distance themselves/ act ashamed of their first toy photo they had just posted. I wish I would have saved their username to see if they continued to post after they received positive affirmation on that post.

This also follows similar conversations I’ve had with people about how it’s okay to start collecting that toy you loved in childhood, or to buy that snack you haven’t had in a million years that you used to love. Owning you and what you love includes allowing yourself to indulge in ‘childlike’ things. There isn’t an age in which you ever have to grow out of your childhood interests. If you’re not causing harm to anyone else, indulge in all of it.

An amazing example of this is an Instagram I just started following. Read her story in the caption of her image below. She began photographing 18 inch American Girl dolls as a child and still does so to this day.

View this post on Instagram

“During my ‘Little House On The Prairie’ phase, Mom made a covered wagon out of an old Radio Flyer. She was always crafting and inventing things. That’s how she was during our entire childhood. When we were watching The Sound of Music, she sewed the costumes for us. And when I fell in love with American Girl dolls, she wrote a movie about the characters. She invited my friends to be the actors. And she even rented our local theater to screen the film. My interests changed as I got older, but I never outgrew my dolls. I learned photography by taking their photos. I’d create little scenes and stories. And whenever I had a new idea— my mom was there to help with the props and outfits. I needed the encouragement because I never had much confidence. Things got especially bad during high school. I hated how I looked. And what I wore. I felt self-conscious that my hobby was dolls. My mom could sense I was getting depressed. And every time I came home from school, she’d ask: ‘What can I do, Syd?’ But I never had an answer. Then one night we were watching ‘Stand By Me,’ and suddenly I got really excited about recreating the scenes with my dolls. Of course my mom encouraged me. We spent hundreds of hours going to thrift stores. We found exact fabric matches to what the boys wore—and my mom made perfect replicas. She was also in charge of the set design. Every detail was perfect. We took a road trip to Oregon where the film was shot, and spent an entire day shooting in the town. It was the most fun I’d ever had. And I knew I’d discovered my passion. Since then we’ve recreated scenes from over twenty movies. I’ve gotten commissions from all over the country. I take the photos—and mom does everything behind the scenes. She doesn’t want credit. That’s who she is. And not just for me– for everyone. She does everything for my dad who has stage four cancer. But if an elderly neighbor needs their lawn mowed, she’s the one who shows up. Mom always told me that she was just like me as a child. She never had confidence. She never trusted her talent. So she’s always been behind the scenes. But she’s the most creative and selfless person I know. And I finally want her to be seen.”

A post shared by Humans of New York (@humansofny) on

I was 17 when I started photographing toys. So maybe I’m in a similar boat. I’ve loved toys, as did everyone, since I was tiny, but my favorites were Polly Pockets and the tiniest of anything else I could find. I still have those Polly Pockets. My grandma had a dollhouse at her house for me. I thought I was too cool for it when I was in middle school, and she was getting rid of it. I still insisted on keeping most of the furniture though at that time. And I regret not keeping it. It was a beautiful dollhouse, with so much nostalgia within it now. A few years later in high school I began building my own dollhouse, so I didn’t remain ‘too cool’ for too long. But did get super embarrassed when my proud older sister was telling people about it.

My and my Barbies in between the couch and the side table circa 1996 ish
My and my Barbies in between the couch and the side table circa 1996 ish

I discovered my love for photography at 14 during a family trip to the Smokey mountains. I used my mom’s film camera from the 80s to capture the surrounding nature. I admired the prints after we got them developed. The next two years I took photography classes at my high school. And it was during this time that I combined my love of toys and photography for an English project.

A toy photography As I Lay Dying illustration I created for a high school project in 2009

I have a family member, not someone I’m too close to, but nonetheless, they always act like the images I make are hilarious. And they’re condescending about the whole of it. I say this not because I let it bother me, but attitudes like this do bother people, and they’re exactly the attitudes that make people feel like they can’t open up about their hobbies, side businesses, overall interests that don’t align with the exact norm. But if we didn’t have a world full of people with diverse skills and knowledge, we’d have a very boring world, with much less innovation and interest.

Find your people. If you photograph toys, check out the Toy Photographers blog, and post stuff to Instagram with the hashtag #toyphotography (among many other tags and nightly Instagram pod sessions). If your interest is something else I won’t be as much help, but still look for those communities. They’ll be much more supportive than much of the internet and maybe that support will give you the confidence you need to continue pursuing that passion, continuing to learn and grow within it. Some communities even have local meet up groups for certain interests. See if there’s one near you. They might be having virtual meetups currently, but it’s a good start to get to know others around you interested in something similar to you.

Toy Photography Cyanotype, 2019

Whatever you do, don’t let go of what makes you happy in order to please others. You deserve whatever it is that gives you that joy.

 

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