Whenever I talk about toy photography, a couple of my own pictures inadvertently come to mind. It’s not that I consciously picked or even made some sort of list to remember them. It rather feels like they never really got out of sight after I made them; they seem to be here to stay. Here are ten of those pictures off the top of my head.
Take the ‘A’ Train, 2022. I feel like I found a nice balance between abstraction and realism here. The harsh lighting – light bouncing off a ‘brick’ wall behind the rail car – emphasizes the graphic quality of this shot, and a composition defined by the symmetry of the windows and the asymmetrical arrangement of the figures inside the car. And the figures, I think, tell their own story.
Prelude to a Kiss, 2022. One thing I like about music, and jazz in particular, is that it brings people together; and one thing I love about this picture is the arrangement of the crowd. When I look at this picture, I seem to hear the soundtrack of dance music, conversational murmur, shuffling feet and clinking glasses. And there’s so much going on in this picture. Did you notice the gaze of the guy to the right?
Dressing Room (from the series Bright Lights, Black City), 2021. There is no particular reason I like this after hours picture of a dressing room. If you look close enough, you’ll see the interior I built here is not perfect; the lights are a bit crooked, and so are the mirrors. But everything seems to have fallen into place: light, composition, atmosphere. I think the two figures – no taller than 2 cm – interact beautifully.
Back Street (from Bright Lights, Black City), 2020. This urban scene is an absolute favorite of mine. It’s part of a larger narrative – my second noir series – and though it does nothing to advance the plot, it sets the mood for the entire series with a general feeling of urbanity and the three not-quite-trustworthy people in the background. Come to think of it, it might even have inspired the series title.
Home Alone (from Bright Lights, Black City), 2020. I was packing up, about to remove this diorama from my desk when I took a last look through the viewfinder. After I felt I was done with the last photo, I had moved the lights, changed the perspective – and then saw this picture. I love the elements in the foreground, the reflection off the pool, the architecture, and the feeling of solitude this picture evokes.
Spring 2020. Apart from few exceptions, the daily news do not find their way into my pictures. But in 2020, the ubiquitous lockdowns left a strong impression. I felt they should be acknowledged in a picture. Despite the dreary content, I really like the simplicity of this picture; the chairs on the tables, combined with bright daylight, send a clear message while the guy in the background might add a bit of mystery.
There’s a There (from the series Zone), 2019. One day, driving from Wiesbaden to Mainz, I noticed some kind of metal scaffolding, or what I later understood to be the drab remains of a billboard. Not daring to build something that looked like a metal construction, I settled for the kind of wooden billboard you might encounter in America. And then the picture became part of that larger series.
Blue Lies (from the series Zone), 2019. This one stands out in that it is so beyond reality. Indeed, it’s supposed to illustrate some kind of dream machine, an illusion the partygoers might be caught in. It was inspired by some scenes from Ian Banks’ Walking on Glass. I don’t know what you see in this – I like to regard it as one of my signature pictures.
Night’s Bridge, 2018. Among my dark pictures, this is the darkest. The picture refers to a scene from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, one of the scarier ones of the novel. But how do you picture three people entering utter darkness? I went for moderate steam punk, the kind I associate with Gaiman’s underground story.
She, 2017. Made in the context of my first Noir series, this picture never became part of the story. However, it was soon to be an icon for my noir photography, and though I might do some things slightly differently today, it still stands out. The Dutch Angle, her long shadow, her posture seem to work very well; plus the figure became one of my favourites. She even appears in two more pictures in this post.