A Favorite Photograph

We have record of 18 toy photos submitted to the Kodak Picture Contest from 1929-1931. And while the Kodak Picture Contest is not something we can currently submit to, we can look at the trends of the Lenscratch Favorite Photograph Exhibition.

Katsui Takakashi, Hawaii, 2c Kodak uuu 142, Vol. 85 1929, Kodak Historical Collection #003, D.319, Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester

Tracking Data

Each year since 2009, Lenscratch has put out a call for readers to submit their favorite photo they took in the prior year. Every photo submitted is included.

The first year I participated in this show was 2020, in total there were 7 toy photos. Only 2 of which, aside from myself, seem to ever photograph toys outside of that one image, and yet, they submitted a toy photo as their favorite photo they’d made throughout the course of the entire year.

However, in 2021, there were only 3 toy photos sent into the favorite photos show.

In 2019, 2 toy photos were submitted. Although there are a few that skirt the edges of toy photography. In any case, let’s track the trend, at least based on my interpretation of the definition of toy photography.

  • 2018, 5
  • 2017, 1
  • 2016, 2
  • 2015, 3
  • 2014, 2
  • 2013, 1
  • 2012, 2
  • 2011, 0
  • 2010, 4
  • 2009, 4

Drawing Conclusions

People have always, and will always, participate in toy photography. From still lives as a tool in the invention of photography, to using toy images as feigned historic record in 1898, to social media participation in the craft today. While we may not have access to every photo taken of posed Kenner Star Wars toys in the 1970s, or posed Barbies in the 1950s, published or not, people have been taking posed pictures of toys.

I suspect the 2020 quarantine allowed people the time to pose toys in front of their cameras and gave people the opportunity to get back in touch with their playfulness. Also, stuck inside, photographers who may have often taken images in the outside world, had to use their creativity with what was immediately available to them in their homes. This led to both staged photos of distraction from the outside world, and commentary on that outside world.

Then, in 2021, with the pandemic stretching out, a lethargy, tiredness, separation from those things that we’d gotten in touch with.

People were certainly still making images with toys, just check the #toyphotography tag on instagram, but a different grouping perhaps than those who send in photos to publications.

Favorite Toy Photograph Exhibition, ____.

And while this post started in a totally different direction, it got me thinking. I have an audience of toy photographers. What if I hosted a yearly exhibition in the same vein?

Note, in no way am I trying to compete with Lenscratch. Their exhibition is a record of photography as a whole, which is much more important than tracking one vein within photography. That said, my mission is to keep tabs on that specific vein, and a separate call for entry seems a wonderful way to do so.

Submissions will be open from November 1 – December 7.

1 image accepted per photographer. Every submitted toy photograph will be published in an online exhibition the first week of January.

I have a fairly open definition of toy photography – a staged or fabricated image of toys, miniatures, inanimate objects of any scale, trinkets or tchotchkes. So with that, let’s get to work making lots of toy photographs in 2022, and using this exhibition as a way to highlight our creative practices.

More info here. Reminders will come out towards the end of the year.

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