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Emotive Toy Photographer

Posts from the ‘Words’ category

Toy Photos of War that Fooled the World for 50 Years

“The most extraordinary photographs ever taken of air flights in war.”

-The Illustrated London News

Wesley David Archer was an American Air Force Pilot in WWI. He enlisted in 1917, but his time in active duty ended when his plane was shot down in October of 1918. The photographs he took while flying are said to be quite good, but those are not the photographs we’re going to discuss today.

In 1927, after a stint as a set designer and modler for productions, Archer and his friend began building models.

Death in the Air

“Feel in no mood to write to-night. Sick of war and everything connected with it.”

The diary of an unnamed pilot. A German camera found and fixed up. An attempt at buidling a darkroom. And all the fights and missing friends in between.

Death in the Air: The War Diary and Photographs of a Flying Corps Pilot was published in 1933, 2 years after the photographs had been exhibited, as part of the Cockburn-Lange colelction, in an exhibition of aviation art.

The book earned the widowed wife of this pilot 20,000 depresison dollars.

The Reveal

John W. Charlton was asked by Archer in the 1950s to hold onto his WWI items. In 1983, 18 years after Archer’s death, Charlton gifted those items to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

While a CIA photo expert had deemed the images within this book fake in the 1950s, and Time Life Laboratory deemed them as fake in 1979, it wasn’t until these items were received by the Smithsonian, that there was any proof of this.

Within the suitcases were the original photographs from the Cockburn-Lange collection, photo negatives, letters, a Colt automatic that had been used in war, a 1918 camera and WWI aviator uniforms. In looking into this matter, Smithsonian employees Peter Grosz and Karl Schneide discovered images of Archer building the models for these photographs, and actual images he took during war.

See bits of the collection for yourself here.

Wesley David Archer

Archer had been at war. He knew what it was like, and knew the slang. His letters home are said to have been very well written. He’d also taken images while flying. He had all the knowledge necessary to make fake aviation images and write a fake war diary. And maybe the diary took a good chunk of inspiration from things he, and those he knew, had gone through. But that we may never know.

Archer tried to enlist for WWII, but was denied because of a hernia. He and his wife moved to Havana in 1952 where he suffered a stroke. He died 3 years later and was given a funeral with full military honors. His wife kept his secret. She died in 1959.

Wesley D. Archer’s Hare Aerial Patent Field Camera, Smithsonian Air and Space Museum collection


Your Turn

Pick an event in your life. It doesn’t have to be as adventuresome as war. Choose your first day at school, the birth of your child, a shopping trip, a hike, whatever you’d like, then tell us the story through a photograph. Set a scene to recreate the colors, feel, or look of the moment. If you choose to share online use #wdastorychallenge

Vogue and Toy Photography

Vogue is a popular fashion magazine. They’ve been around since 1892 and are still going strong. And through them we can draw an easy line from fashion photography to interior design photography to still lives and within, miniature photography.

Harley Weir

“Beauty is so subjective, it’s anything that moves me and I think those things are especially moving if I cant explain why. Enjoying a sunset for example is a bizarre pleasure that only humans seem to appreciate and that makes it so mysterious and so intellectual.”

– Harley Weir

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The Staged Photos that Fooled Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the World, for Nearly 70 years

“The series of incidents set forth in this little volume represent either the most elaborate and ingenious hoax ever played upon the public, or else they constitute an event in human history which may in the future appear to have been epoch-making in its character.”

– Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Coming of the Fairies

Elsie Wright and Francis Griffiths, Cottingly Fairies, 1917

Elsie Wright and Francis Griffiths, Cottingly Fairies, 1917

In 1917, Elsie Wright (16) and Francis Griffiths (9) would often play in the woods by their home. They told everyone they played with fairies there, but no one believed them. After Elsie begged her father for use of his camera, she was finally granted permission, and her and Francis finally captured proof of their fairy friends. Read more

Horst P. Horst, Classical still life, 1937

Surrealist Figure Photographers of the Mid 1900s

In trying to find the earliest toy photograph, I came accross the amazing work of these two. Their work can’t be part of my early toy photography search as I’ve already found a couple that predate these, but it certainly is something to be noted nevertheless.

Horst P. Horst (1906-1999)

“I don’t think photography has anything remotely to do with the brain. It has to do with eye appeal.” – Horst P. Horst Read more

My Ongoing Search for the Earliest Toy Photograph

The definition of a toy photograph has to be slightly amended when discussing the onset of photography. Action figures didn’t exist back then. However figures and miniatures of all types have been around since ancient times, with dollhouses joining them in the 16th century.

I’ve discussed the Cottingly Fairies of 1917, and the Nymphenburg Figure of 1912 here before, paper cutouts and a decorative figure.  Theres even more examples to be seen in the 1920s and 30s. But I’m certain there must be something even older than 1912, from earlier in photography’s timeline.

As I was telling my mom when I rambled on about this too long the other day, if to delevop the photographic processes seen below, it was quite helpful to take images of still objects because the exposure time was so long, you can’t convince me that they didnt just grab available figures, toys etc. That said, I’d like to subscribe to the definition that toy photography has to say something. It can’t just be a test image of a still object, but I’m keeping an open mind, and we’ll see if we can get there. Read more

Creating Art that’s Intimately Yours

I originally published this post on Toy Photographers in 2017.

The world opens up…as a grand and glorious adventure in feeling and in understanding. Nothing human is unimportant to him. Everything he sees is germane to his purpose. Every word that he hears uttered is of potential use to him. Every mood, every passing fancy, every trivial thought can have its meaning and its place in the store of experience he is accumulating.

-from Studs Lonigan by James T. Farrell as quoted by Brooks Jenson of LensWork  (LW1040 Inspiration Comes from Everywhere)

Architecture Study 18

Scratching the Surface

In a way I feel like each of my photos is an exploration of the same concept, emotion, story. And yet, while stylistically they may be similar, each photo varies in subject matter. Read more

Tobias M. Schiel (Empire of Lights), Noir Suites

Mini Noir Aficianado, Tobias M. Schiel // Empire of Lights

I breifly discussed one of Tobias’ images in my Toy Photography as Art post, but I’ve know of his work for at least a few years now and I truly admire the images he makes with miniatures. I knew I wanted to use his work as representation of modern toy photographers making artistic pieces, and in discussing that with him I felt like he needed a seperate post here for his words and pieces to truly shine.

Here’s what he had to say – Read more

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

The Toys I Loved

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

Today we’re not going to talk about the Polly Pockets, Fashion Pollys, Barbies, Bratz and Beanie Babies. Although all those things hold a very important place in my childhood and in my heart. We’re going to instead talk about the toys that got away, the ones that still pull at my heartstrings and the ones I want back.

First and foremost, help me find this one

There was a book sold at the Scholastic book fair somewhere between 2000 and 2004 maybe. It was called Make your Own Cool Girls Room or something similarly not creative. A hot pick cover, and pop out hot pink, yellow, aqua and purple cardstock furniture pieces to glue together. There was a little clear zipper pouch to hold the extra ribbon, beads and glue (all included).

I loved it, it was love at first sight. I want it again, but can’t find record of it anywhere. I contacted Scholastic, but they don’t keep record of old stock. It’s probably not as cool as I remember it being, but if I ever get my hands on it, I’d make all the furniture again and find cool ways to photograph it nevertheless.

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