on the idea and representation of play

We’re very excited to be getting submissions from around the world for our Toy Camera Photographers for Tots photo book call for entries, where proceeds will go to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to benefit children affected by areas in the United States ravaged by tornadoes in 2011. The theme of the book is Play. In the call, on the idea and representation of Play, we write:

CWiP is seeking images that explore, complicate, and represent in compelling ways the concept of Play.  These might include, but are certainly not limited to, photographs that deal with imaginary play, word play, adult play, children’s play, animal play, games, or the various kinds of materials and/or spaces associated with play. Similarly, photographs might represent play from the perspective of a child’s imagination, or from a toy’s perspective, or they might take up questions about what it means to play or explore the matter of who is allowed (or disallowed) to play. These are, of course, just suggestions for representing play. However you interpret the theme Play through your viewfinder is what we are looking for!

We’ve also included a variety of images that showcase Play in a variety of settings. Our guest editors have also gotten in to the fun: Jody Shipka has been posting play-related images to her Flickr account and Nic Nichols has created a Carnival themed post at toycamera.com. Take a look at them both!

It seems, however, that many photographers are looking through their work and thinking that they just don’t have any images that showcase play. For example, one photographer tweeted: “going through my toy camera photos for this: http://bit.ly/mGvUfl i do not think i have any.” I went and took a look at his web site and one of the first images I saw was a fun underwater photo of two women swimming taken with a Lomo Fisheye. That image? Play.

When we write Play we are thinking expansively—and we hope that photographers will do the same. Yes, play encompasses things like carnivals and sports and amusement parks and children playing. But, it can also encompass much more.

The images themselves can be playful, such as this photo by David Harris:

Or this one by Flickr photographer, Stephen:

They can be ironical, playing with a particular trope or theme or idea. They can hint at play that happened, a playful space, or play that will come, such as “Beach Chairs” by 32rh:

Or, “Santa Cruz” by Javier Romero:

Or, the photographer can be playing with the processes of creating an image. For example, scratching or burning film, adding vaseline on a lens of a toy camera, flipping a toy camera lens, using window scans of holga negatives, and so on. Here, play is defined as toying with or altering what is traditionally done, and you can discuss what you’ve done to play with the processes in the submission fields and reflection. Techniques themselves can also be considered play if we look at play as experimentation:  x-pro, double-exposure, throwing the camera up in the air while hitting the shutter, literally shooting from the hip, etc. A few examples:

Flipped lens, “Sonria por favor / Smile please,” by Blurry Stuff

Burnt negative, “Diana: Burnt Negative” by Matt Callow:

Vaseline on the lens, “Uusi ihme..’ by karumbalimba:

Double exposure, “In Defiance of Nature,” by No. Nein:

Photography is almost always a form of play insofar as photographers are looking to experiment, try something new, take something apart, see what else it can do. You can and should discuss your playful techniques in the notes about the shot and in your 150 – 200 word reflections.

Or, a photo could depict a playful look even during the most troubling of times, such as in “Orphan Girl Smiles” by Mauricio Jimenez. An argument could even be made that “The Pigeons” also by Mauricio Jimenez is an example of play.

The requested 150 – 200 word reflections are important because they provide you with the space to describe just how that photo fits within the Play theme of the book. Take advantage of it. You might even be playful.

Ultimately, we encourage you to think expansively and creatively about your work and how it is and can be a representation of play. I saw many of the above images in 5 minutes the other night while looking through the toycamera.com Flickr group. And there were dozens more that were also playful and therefore worthy of submission.

So, if you think you don’t have any images of play, look again. I bet you do.

Now go ahead and submit them and support The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation!