That’s not to say I haven’t had anything to write about,
…in fact, it’s very much the opposite. I’ve been considering what direction I’d like my photography to go and it’s been weighing on me. Now, people outside of the toyphotography community might hear something like this and think, “What’s the big deal? You take pictures of toys.” On the other hand, there’s a hardcore group of toyphotographers who can relate to exactly what I’m feeling and I bet some of you are in the same position I am.
In October of 2010, Instagram was launched. The mobile web app gained popularity quickly and in just two months it had one million registered users. I was one of those one million. After discovering the emerging toy photography community that had quickly established itself, IG became the outlet for the hobby I love. I was surprised, almost daily, by the sheer number of like-minded people that continued to turn up. I’d follow them, they’d follow me, amazing photos of toys and figures were being shared, it was great! Entertaining, eye opening, inspirational and FUN all come to mind. Well, eight years later, Instagram isn’t fun anymore.
What was once an outlet for artists (either by design or just the direction it took off in) is now an overgrown, bloated remnant of what it once was. It’s a business. It’s not a business for the average Joe with a camera and some ideas either. It’s a feeder business for Facebook, which purchased Instagram in 2012. The changes were subtle at first… a few ads, the ability to post to Facebook directly from Instagram, nothing major. Then came the “sponsored posts”, more ads, and of course - THE ALGORITHM. Keeping up to date with what your friends in IG Land had posted became near impossible. Your feed became “curated” and unwritten rules came into play. Being shadow-banned and blacklisted became the hot topic of discussion. By the way, both of those things happen and they both have a huge impact post engagement. Your picture isn’t bad… Instagram is. Instagram has gone from engaging and entertaining to being a money making machine… for THEM.
The toyphotography community adapted to the change. There used to be many, many hubs to hashtag your photos to in hopes of being seen, shared, and of course “liked”. But the algorithm seems to have killed the smaller of them them off by rendering hashtags almost useless. Now the hubs that remain have become major players in deciding what gets seen and shared. This brought the community together in one regard, but at the same time it alienated artists new to the format. It’s extremely difficult for a brand new IG user to get anything seen by anyone and gain a following (read: make a meaningful connection) unless you throw money at “sponsored posts”.
The other thing that has recently come to my attention is the nonstop one up-manship among us and the constant vying for sponsorship. Friendly competition is a good thing and has been responsible for some major innovations in the way toys are photographed. The back-biting, copy-catting, ridiculous name calling and in-fighting that is so prevalent in my feed disgusts me. The shameless begging for sponsorship, the non-stop scrolling through photos of the same “latest-greatest” figure that was “given” to someone by a company in exchange for “exposure” and “partnership” makes me want to throw my phone against a wall. To the folks that go out and buy a figure because they want it, kudos to you. That’s how it’s done. Call me old-school, call me ignorant, or just plain dumb, I don’t care. To the people getting sent stuff because you’ve formed a (lol) partnership, or worse… a company approached you and now your photos are theirs? Gross! Nobody is going to own my work unless they buy the piece from ME.
Which brings me to where I am now. I’ve decided to take 100% ownership of my photography. I’m taking responsibility for what gets seen, how it gets seen, when and where it gets seen. Plain and simple.
Going forward, I’m going to focus on my website, this blog and a few other internet entities. First and foremost is toyphotographers.com . If you are familiar with Shelly Corbett and Brett Wilson, then you know the kind of quality work I want to be associated with. This isn’t to say I’m removing myself from Instagram. I can’t do that. I’ve made too many friends from all over the globe there and I don’t want to lose that connection.
I hope this explains where I’m with my art, if you care. I’m going to assume you do if you’ve read this. At some point, a picture I’ve posted caught your eye and you hit that follow button on IG. I’m inviting you to do the same again by subscribing to my blog. You’ll receive email updates when I post new work. Just like IG, but so much better!
Thanks for reading.