We were incredibly fortunate to recently collaborate with photographer Jennifer Wells to create a new series of images based on a single concept.
We tasked Jennifer to show us her interpretation of the word ‘Survival’ and the results really blew us away. We knew when we first spoke with her that she was a true talent behind the lens, but the end product of this collaboration truly raised the bar and pushed the boundaries of what we should expect when we say the term ‘Toy Photography’. Below is the process that Jennifer undertook to reach her final series of images …
“When considering the theme of survival I thought of it in two forms – mental and physical. I was first drawn to responding to it in the mental fashion, as much of my work revolves around this concept – depicting longing and isolation, and hinting at depression and anxiety. That said, I had been envisioning working with Axis & Allies game pieces in the near future. For those not familiar, these game pieces are monochrome WWII soldiers and vehicles. In this sense, the series came to depict the physical survival involved in war and also a mental survival within that same setting. In these images the objects and figures are physically near, but separate, shrouded in a cloud of fog, this battle is their own. The title of the pieces also aims to symbolise this. In each image there’s a set amount of objects – 5 planes, 4 undead/injured, 3 men with gas masks, 2 soldiers, 1 tank. A countdown to the impending end of sorts.
I began with planes, soldiers and a tank from Axis & Allies. I then gathered ho scale figures to use for the men in gas masks and undead/injured. I used an Exacto knife to modify these figures as needed, glued one half of a water bead (orbeez) to the faces of each of the three men to serve as gas masks, then painted each of the figures to match the beige-green tone of the selected game pieces.
For the landscape I used a war gaming grass mat and for the sky, I painted a piece of scrapbook paper beige and blue. For the actual shot I used one table top studio light to the right of each scene and a fog machine. I photographed with a very small depth of field, as I often do, focusing only on the object closest to the foreground and allowing the rest to dissolve into the background. This technique allows these landscapes to seem to stretch much farther than they actually do. I think the tall, dead grass and the fog add nicely to the WWII ambiance, as well as to the feeling of isolation.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with how these images came out. I did re-shoot the soldier, tank and plane images over a few different photo sessions as I didn’t like the posing of the initial shots. And during each process I took a few shots of each scene so I could choose which fog effect I preferred. All in all I’m never completely satisfied. But I think that’s definitely a good motivation tool.”
We would like to say a huge thank you to Jennifer for putting so much work and thought into creating this series of original images in response to our one word challenge. A lot of time and effort has gone into this project, and we really hope that it has inspired more photographers to step outside the norm and embrace a whole different form of Toy Photography to continue pushing the boundaries of the community.
You can keep up to date with all of Jennifer’s projects by stopping by her site https://jennifernicholewells.com/ and you can also expect to see another full feature of original content in our 3rd issue out 2017. Don’t forget to leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!