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”

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. Continue reading “Creating Art that’s Intimately Yours”

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.

Continue reading “The Toys I Loved”

My Art Book Shelf

I’ve compiled a list of my art books. Many I’ve used as reference in my posts here, some I will in the future, and others still yet to be perused. Maybe these will be of use in your own art life.

This post contains affiliate links. But I got most of mine from used book stores, so check the shelves of your local stores and you might find something interesting.

Book cover of Alfred Stiegitz Camera Work
Alfred Stiegitz Camera Work

Pam Roberts, 1997

“For 50 issues, Stieglitz carefully gathered, composed, edited, and produced Camera Work, a journal dedicated to a medium more technically established than artistically recognized.”Continue reading “My Art Book Shelf”

A Toy Photography Assignment from Focus On Photography

“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.

So, in pulling out all my photo and art books to use as research and inspiration, I grabbed ‘Focus on Photography: Teacher’s Edition‘ by Hermon Joyner and Kathleen Monaghan, published in 2006.

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.Continue reading “A Toy Photography Assignment from Focus On Photography”

I asked an ai to make toy photography memes

It was unsuccessful.

But there are so many more ai things to explore, so you know I had to try it. TLDR: humans are still winning, at least in the humor department.

To see more ai stuff, and learn a bit about how neural networks work, click here.

ImgFlip, a popular meme generator website allows you to choose or upload an image, and put your own text over it. However, they now have an ai option. You choose a popular meme format, type in your own prefix text and wa-la, well sort of.

I typed in ‘toy photography’ and got ‘The ai was not creative enough to expand upon your prefix text.’ So I tried ‘miniature’ and got the same message. Then tried ‘toys’ and it did expand upon the text, just not well.

So here are most of the terrible ones that largely make no sense.

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These ones are closer to successful.

So uh, I won’t be perusing ai generated memes anytime soon, but I’m sure they’ll learn in time. Some people have gotten some pretty good results – you can see those here, but I imagine you’d have to click refresh over and over on the topic you’ve chosen, or you’d have to not choose a topic at all and just see what the generator can come up with on its own without restriction. But that’s still going to have some pretty mixed results.

So instead I come to you. I am not a meme queen by any definition. But I bet some of you are (or kings). Make some toy photogtaphy memes, send em my way ( and I’ll make a follow up post with your creations! Help me prove that humans are still better at this kind of stuff.

And I won’t be blogging about ai forever I promise. Just on a bit of a kick at the moment.

Toy Photography as Art

“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
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.

Continue reading “Toy Photography as Art”

Revisiting the Deep Dream Generator

I last blogged about Google’s Deep Dream in 2015. So the ai has had 5 years to learn. With the recent ai blog experiment, it seemed like it was time to take a look back. And the Deep Dream Generator does have a lot more options now.

I started with this image:

And generated these renditions:

I got the best results from Thin Style, with similar result from Deep Style where you select an art style to merge with your uploaded image. The standard Deep Dream results look quite similar to those in 2015, although extensively less trippy (as they called the filter back then). Thin style doesn’t change the original image as immesely so it really depends on what look you’re going for. Check the trending page and you’ll see people have created really amazing images with flowers and other organic shapes. And I think that’s truly the best way to use this tool, if it suits any sort of style you’re goin for.

This floral result, from one of my images, through the Deep oil painting style, I really like.

Continue reading “Revisiting the Deep Dream Generator”