“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.”
– Paul Caponigro
I was an education minor in college (photo major, double minor w/ art history). I got my temporary k-12 art teaching certificate, but ended up deciding not to persue teaching (that’s a story for another day). In any case, in one of the classes around 2010/11 we had to get a teacher’s edition of a textbook that we would use in the classroom.
I’ve been on this blog kick, mostly because I finally have a ton of ideas for it and it’s still a way of creating, even though I haven’t been able to make myself make photos and resin crafts. This weird work schedule (due to limiting the number of people in the building) and new job have been weighing on me.
And within its pages I found a lesson on portrait toy photography! While toy photography can be so much more expansive than portraiture, it’s a really good intro to the medium. And as it’s a teacher’s edition, if you’d like to try the lesson for yourself, you can even give yourself a grade after. Read more
“Art is the expression of those beauties and emotions that stir the human soul.”
– Howard Pyle
Photography as art
Photography had been around since 1840, but it was not accepted as art then. The medium was meant for documenting reality, and that alone. But there was a group of artists that saw the manipulation of film in a dark room, or the purposeful creation of a scene, equivalent to a painter manipulating paint. In 1902 Alfred Stieglitz formed the Photo-Secession movement and began work on the corresponding publication Camera Work, that shared the pieces of Avant-Garde artists.
In 1905 Stieglitz and Edward Steichen founded 291, a New York Gallery, that also promoted Avant-Garde work.
Avant-Garde art was considered ahead of the curve, subversive and fell within the period of Pictorialism which ranged from 1885-1915. Pictorialist photographers emphasized beauty, composition, lighting and tonality over documentation of reality. And this period came to the forefront through the Photo-Succession movement.
The Two Ways of Life, Oscar Gustave Rejlander, 1857
Tableaux Vivants, or still stage productions where actors would make a freeze frame of a popular scene began in 1830, with Tableux photography following in 1850. Oscar Gustave Rejlander, a photographer who worked in this style, is known as the father of fine art photography.
Fast forward, and staged (or fabricated) photography made it’s way forward in popularity in the 1980s. Staged photography, a similar practice to Tableaux, sets a narrative. The practice had existed since the invention of photography, but the name wasn’t coined until the 1980s. Its rise in popularly is owed to Cindy Sherman, Duane Michaels, Joel-Peter Witten, Thomas Demand, and dabblers in toy photography Laurie Simmons and Arthur Tress.
We’re all familiar with the Polaroid camera. Whether you’ve used one or not, you know the name is synonymous with the art of instant photography. But, did you know that its invention began in 1928?
The History of Polaroid
The first Polaroid camera, the Model 95, was then introduced in 1948 and was offered for sale at the Marsh department store the same year. Professional photographers, including Ansel Adams began to use Polaroid cameras in the 1950s as their popularity grew and Polaroid established the Artist Support Program (ASP) in the 1960s.
The ASP was essentially an early form of influencer marketing. Polaroid would invite artists to join the program, give them a camera and a lifetime supply of film with the goal of raising brand awareness.
In 1963 the first instant color film was introduced, along with the Automatic 100 camera. In 1967 came the Automatic 230 and peel apart prints. Read more
I’ve been using toys and miniatures in my photography since 2008. My work in this field hasn’t always been good, and sometimes it’s still not. But sometimes it’s really good. I’ve had my work in publications and galleries across the globe and I’m very passionate about the subject of toy photography and its deep roots. Because of this I research and write about toy photography and related subjects pretty often and maybe just maybe, you’ll find this info useful in your own life and work.
Let me know if there’s a topic you’d like to see here. More will be added in time.
Quite some time ago, I published this info on this site, but I’ve since reformatted for readability and published again. This post and my history of toy photography post will both be making their way into a whole new deep dive soon. I hope you’ll find it useful.
Miniatures have taken the world by storm. And why wouldn’t they? The internet allows the spread of their tiny glory to miniacs all over the world. But they have a hugely amazing history, dating back to ancient Egypt, if not further, and I think that history needs to be explored.
3rd Millennium BC (Old Kingdom Egypt)
The earliest known examples of dollhouses. These included wooden models of servants, furnishings, boats, livestock and pets and were placed in pyramids for religious purposes.
Mesopotamia/ Iron Age/ Ancient Egypt (3000s BC)
Mesopotamian clay tablets considered the first miniature books.
Miniature artwork in the Egyptian papyrus manuscripts.
Iron Age/Roman West votive offerings and grave gods.
Salisbury hoard detailed miniaturized bronze shields. So detailed they are later used by archaeologists to learn about their full-scale counterparts.
American Pre-Columbian (1st millennium BC to 16th Century AD)
Small-scale architectural effigies are made in ceramic, stone, wood and metal.
Early Roman (753 BC — 476 AD)
Less representational miniature Roman weapons produced.
Late Roman (late 3rd — mid 4th centuries AD)
Mithrassymbole — detailed bronze miniatures of farming implements, snakes, lizards and frogs placed in wealthy female burial sites around Cologne.
Medieval Period (5th to 15th Century)
The word “miniature” is derived from the pigment used in the small, detailed art of illuminated manuscripts — “minium.”
Peter Schoffer publishes Diurnale Mogantinum — the first traditional miniature book.
Ancient Peru/ Inca Empire (13th to 16th Century)
Miniature feathered clothing and gold, silver and copper figurines made as religious offerings.
Earliest known European dollhouses called baby houses. These were cabinet display cases with individual rooms, trophy collections made for adults.
Small toy tea sets, made from pewter and copper first created in Germany.
Rise of the use of maquettes during the baroque period — small models of planned sculptures. Also referred to as plastico, modello, bozzetto or sketch. This date could potentially be earlier in history.
Smaller doll houses with more realistic exteriors appeared in Europe.
Porcelain manufacture led to the resurgence of children’s tea sets.
First model train engines created as prototype steam engines.
Shipwrights build scale ships as demonstration prototypes.
Late 18th — Early 19th Century (Industrial Revolution)
Dollhouses began being mass produced in factories by Christian Hacker, Moritz, Gottschalk, Elastolin, Moritz Reichel in Germany, and Silber & Fleming, Evans & Cartwright, Lines Brothers (later Tri-ang) in the UK.
Early 19th Century (start of WWI)
Germany’s popular dollhouse manufacturing declines.
More cost-effective children’s tea sets produced from bakelite and celluloid and dolls’ tea sets emerge with the invention of celluloid dolls.
UK company Stevens’ Model Dockyard produces miniature brass locomotives.
Small scale commercial train models produced.
Model trains become more available.
US company Eugene Beggs of New Jersey begins making steam models.
Late 1800s — 1940s
Salesman samples produced.
End of the 19th Century
The Bliss Manufacturing Company begins making dollhouses in the US.
Germany’s Markland Company is the first to use a numerical model train gauge system.
Clockwork model horseless carriages date back to this time. These are the earliest miniature automobiles.
TynieToy Company of Providence, Rhode Island makes authentic replicas of American antique houses. Other notable early 20th century American dollhouse companies include Roger Williams Toys, Tootsietoy, Schoenhut, Wisconson Toy Co.
Meccano Ltd. Introduces a set of six die cast scale model cars to go with their O scale model train line — Dinky Toys.
First plastic models manufactured by Frog in the UK.
First wooden scale model automobile kits produced by Ace and Berkley.
First plastic automobile kits produced by Revell.
American companies began producing plastic models. These companies included Hawk, Varney, Empire, Renwal, and Lindberg.
Dollhouses are mass produced in larger scales with less detail.
More companies began production of plastic models. In the US – Aurora, Revell, AMT, Monogram, UK- Airfix, Matchbox, France- Heller SA, Italy- Italeri, ESCI, Former Soviet Union- Novo, Japan- Fujima, Nichimo, Bandai.
Automobile models originally made as sales promotional items become popular with the public. AMT begins producing 1:25 scale models to meet this demand.
Most dollhouses are made with sheet metal and contain plastic furniture. They are relatively inexpensive and available to developed western countries.
AMT starts producing model car kits.
Tamiya began manufacturing plastic model aircraft kits.
Japanese companies Hasegawa and Tamiya dominate the plastic model industry.
Chinese companies DML, AFV Club and Trumpeter join Hasegawa and Tamiya at the top of the plastic model industry.
Tamiya reissues a small selection of plastic model aircraft kits.
And that’s where I’ll leave you today. I’d venture to say, everything from 2004 — present day is too modern to gear just how influential it will be.
Over the course of multiple years, I wondered why we all love miniatures so much, why I was so enthralled by their magic. And throughout this time I read Susan Stewart’s ‘On Longing’ and a reactionary blog series to that book. And I fell somewhere in between. So I continued to pull information from all sources I could find pertaining to this topic and the above video and below transcript are the result. And finally I felt and still feel like the urge to pursue this topic has left me, the voracious inquiry is no longer, but hopefully this will help you in yours.