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Flint has three copies of Toy Tokyo to give away, for your chance to win one and be published send your best toy or instant camera pic to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Flint recently caught up with author Manami Okazaki to discuss her new book, Toy Tokyo. Manami has written nine books exploring traditional and contemporary culture in Japan, with a particular focus on the weird and wonderful subcultures from the land of the rising sun. In Toy Tokyo she has explored the world of toy cameras and the people that use them.
Where did your interest in toy cameras come from?
If you aren’t familiar with his work, check out the flickr account of Tommy Oshima, he uses a variety of cameras, (not just, but a lot of toys) — they are hauntingly beautiful images that burn into your mind. I think that is where I first came to know of toy photography, as he seems to experiment with a new camera every time he shoots.
There was a boom with toy cams, both abroad and in Japan, due a lot to do the “cool” designs, and the marketing genius of lomography, and these cameras have seen waves in popularity. However, I think even though they were once seen as a trendy novelty, photographers like David Burnett and Daido Moriyama have taken prize-winning, iconic images with toys, and they have become an established genre of photography.
What was your inspiration to write Toy Tokyo?
There are so many interesting, talented photographers using toys – many seemingly take them on their travels, and I thought it would be great to have them compiled into a book.
Specifically, I wanted to make a travel photography book, which is why there are so many photographers not native to Japan in the book.
I used to also write for many travel publications, and the general demise of this genre of journalism is shocking. A lot of stories are luxury lifestyle endorsements in the guise of journalism, or they are sponsored by tourism associations — so basically they are ads in disguise, peppered with stock photography. Rather than representing the travel experience when one’s senses are the most heightened, and the myriad of sensual, surreal moments you have when on the road, the articles seem to strive for the most generic, blasé advertorial format. I also think the fact that a lot of bloggers brag about being paid to embed advertisements in posts, means that its not even taboo to write articles with commercial agendas anymore.
On a personal level, I just wanted to get as far away from that as possible.
I also like the conversation around toys, rather than capturing objective truth, for many photographers, they use toys to capture an image closer to perception and imagination — in fact, many photographers mentioned that they use toys to recreate an experience as they remembered it, not as it is in reality.
Also, I am located close to a lot of the makers such as Holga and The Great Wall Plastic Company which produced the original Diana, and the Zero pinhole, so it was logistically easy to be able to meet these makers.
What is it about toy cameras that makes them so endearing?
In practical terms, they are light, tough, and simple. You can take them travelling, and are so cheap, if they break, it isn’t a big drama. They are particularly suited to street and travel photography, because people are not threatened by them, and they are conversation starters. Also, admittedly as objects, they are beautiful.
They do not fulfill the requirements of what could be considered to be well-manufactured products – they are inconsistent, flawed, user- unfriendly, and unpredictable. However, the things that would normally be considered design faults; the light streaks, blurry images and the dreamy atmosphere is what makes them so unique. Many people liken the nostalgic, dream-like atmosphere of toy photography to impressionism.
Who are the featured photographers?
The common thread is that they use toys, and somehow appreciate the limitations set by the simplicity of the camera. Some of them are known for their work with toy cameras, like Kevin Meredith, Takeshi Suga and Hodachrome and give workshops using cameras like the LOMO LC-A, and Diana. Others usually work as photojournalists or portrait photographers, and toys are a diversion to their regular work.
A lot of my colleagues are completely jaded with the state of the industry – with magazine budgets disappearing, and stock photography becoming the norm, it is really quite depressing at the moment. However, when you put them on the subject of toys, polaroids or pinholes, suddenly they become really enthusiastic about photography – the only reason they would use a toy is because they want to, no corporate client is going to ask for a toy shot image!
To Buy a copy of Toy Tokyo go here: amazon