The History of the Still Life

The term ‘still life’ was coined in the Netherlands in the 17th century, but the practice itself dates back to ancient times.

As a basis, a still life is “a piece that features an arrangement of inanimate objects as its subject” (My Modern Met). Meaning, for you toy photographers reading this, toy photography is a form of still life!Continue reading “The History of the Still Life”

Toy-esque Photographers | Onset of Photography through the 1980s

Photographers who at least dabbled in photographs of toys, miniatures, figurines and the like, a timeline.

Click the names to learn more.

Links and Photographer listing will be updated as I find more to add.

[Last Updated August 10, 2020]

1898 Albert Smith & James Stuart Blackton

Albert Smith and James Stuart Blackton, Raising Old Glory Over Morro Castle, 1898

Continue reading “Toy-esque Photographers | Onset of Photography through the 1980s”

Hans Bellmer – A Doll Day Feature

Today, August 2nd, is Doll Day and in realizing this I knew I had an interesting opportunity to talk about Hans Bellmer, an artist I recently came across while researching another post to come.

Bellmer was a surrealist photographer in the 1930s. In his work he almost only photographed life-sized dolls he built beginning in 1934 with the help of his wife. The dolls were made of wood and metal skeletons covered in plaster and paper mâché. His work is quite surreal, and also intriguing. It is believed that much of Bellmer’s work stems from his own childhood trauma. The images seem to reveal that pain.

I’ll admit, viewing many make me uncomfortable. This is because I empathize with the state of the doll in each image, and in a way, with the state of mind of the artist. This lends a lot of power to images of toys and dolls. We can see ourselves within these representations and experience emotion along with the inanimate objects.

I’ll leave the googling of other works, and theories up to you, but here I’ve chosen a couple that I find quite captivating.

See more surrealist figure work of this time period here.

Let me know what you think of this artist and his work, and separately, in the spirit of doll day, share all your memories of dolls in your life.

Follow me on instagram to stay up to date with what I’m up to. You’ll be the first to see what I’m researching and creating. Just click the screenshot.

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.

Continue reading “The War Films Made with Toys”

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

Continue reading “Vogue and Toy Photography”