Occasionally I get a question along the lines of "Why are you -- a 42-year-old man -- constantly taking pictures of toys?" Well, first, I'm only 42 for six more days. Second, allow me to enlighten you.
I am a lifelong fan of toys. I am also a near-lifelong fan of photography.
I got my first camera when I was less than 10 years old. One of those old 110mm cameras with the film cartridges that resembled an old telephone handset? After that, I got a Kodak Disk camera that I loved to death. But even before owning those, I used my parents' old Polaroid instant camera.
When it comes to toys, I didn't just play with them like most kids. Don't get me wrong, I played the heck with my toys. Mostly Star Wars and G.I. Joe (the 3.75" variety) along with a sprinkling of Transformers, He-Man, Battle Beasts, Muscle Men, and others. But Star Wars and G.I. Joe were my go-to.
Sometimes, instead of playing with them, I posed them. Which I suppose is simply a type of playing. But I wasn't actually making them do things when actively when posed. They were just set up in a battle scene or re-creating something from one of the original Star Wars films or whatnot.
I was inspired heavily by things like the Sears holiday catalog which tended to put toys in action poses instead of just photographing them in boxes or on their display cards. I also used to love this store in Lexington, KY, called Gold Circle that used glassed-off endcaps on their toy aisles to set up dioramas. It was always a lot of fun to look at.
When I lived in Lexington, we had an old weeping willow tree in our backyard. I would flood the dirt under the tree with a hose and put the Dagobah playset under there and create a true setting in which Yoda could train Luke after his X-Wing comes crashing down in a bog.
Whatever the arrangement, I would then move away by 5 or 10 feet and get down to their level and just stare at them. I could do that for hours... just look at them. I'd imagine what their next moves would be almost like I was storyboarding a movie.
I gave up on it for many years. Those awkward teenage ones where toys cease to be cool.
I picked up on the idea again many years later when I saw the movie Amelie in which the title character, played by Audrey Tautou, has her father's garden gnome photographed in a variety of foreign locales in an attempt to get him to break his isolationist way of life.
I do kinda the same now but just without the dedicated concentration. I take toys and try to give them something to do. Like the old days of Stormin' Norman, my LEGO Stormtrooper (photo below)...
and more recently with Yondu on Terra (photo below)...
and DemiMooreGon my Demogorgon from Stranger Things...
It's stupid, but it's fun. And so much better than staged studio shots (although they turned out nicely).
Did I mention that Nathan likes to get in on the action?
That makes it even cooler.