The War Films Made with Toys

“The lesson here, surely, is not that the camera can, and often does, lie, but that it has lied ever since it was invented.”

Mike Dash, Smithsonian

The Spanish-American war began in 1898. Publications wanted photographs, theaters wanted films. The problem was, not everyone could get to Cuba, and even if they could, cameras of the day weren’t very fast, so capturing action was out of the question. So many film-makers took matters into their own hands. The ones here, used models.

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My Toy Photos that Didn’t Fool the World

“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?Continue reading “My Toy Photos that Didn’t Fool the World”

The Toy Photo that Fooled the World for 60 Years

The Surgeon’s Photograph

“I realised, for the first time, with complete assurance, the picture was not a fake and that the Loch Ness Monster was real and tangible; a living animal -or one that had been real and alive when the picture was taken in 1934.”

-Nicholas Witchell, The Loch Ness Story

The year is 1934, Marmaduke “Duke” Wetherell, a movie-maker and big game hunter, was hired by the London Daily Mail to find evidence of the Loch Ness Monster. He arrived at the lake and found mysterious footprints. After having the casts of the prints tested, it was found out that the prints belonged to a hippopotamus. The London daily Mail wouldn’t let Wetherell live this down.

Livid, Wetherell came up with a plan. He’d give them precisely what they had asked for, evidence of the monster, one way or another.

Continue reading “The Toy Photo that Fooled the World for 60 Years”

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.

Continue reading “Toy Photos of War that Fooled the World for 50 Years”

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. Continue reading “The Staged Photos that Fooled Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the World, for Nearly 70 years”

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 Continue reading “Surrealist Figure Photographers of the Mid 1900s”

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. Continue reading “My Ongoing Search for the Earliest Toy Photograph”