Hey all, thanks for checking out our latest Dan’s ToyBox Interview! I recently had the awesome pleasure of meeting one of the coolest gentlemen out there. Brian Carr is the owner and founder of Toytography Magazine, LLC. This fantastic website and digital magazine aren’t just devoted to pictures of toys, but also to providing helpful tips and tricks for improving your own photography skills. Brian shares articles and interviews with other industry greats, publishes his amazing work, and features reader submissions! The best part, for all you toy photographers out there is that your work can get a feature with an accompanying write up, allowing you to get noticed! We were supposed to meet the Friday prior to New Years, but due to illness, I had to reschedule. Thankfully, Brian was more than willing to be flexible with his time and I was blessed to have the opportunity to talk with a fantastic guy! We talked toys, photography and faith. Brian and I both share strong faith and his has led him through some tough times, to where he is today. Throughout the article, you will see pictures of Brian’s work. All photographs are copyright and property of Brian Carr/Toytography Magazine and are used with his permission.
DTB: Brian, what piqued your interest in toy collecting and photography?
BC: Several years ago, I was working as a video game tester and saw some of the SOTA (State of the Art) Toys Street Fighter Figures. I was really impressed with the detail incorporated into the figures as well as the articulation. I bought some and to pass time between game testing, started taking pictures of the figures, which I turned into a sort of “mini comic strip.” The idea was to just kind of share it with my co-workers as a joke, but the response I got was not what I expected. Everybody was asking me…” What happens next?!?” They wanted more, which was a big surprise to me. I ended up buying some comic book creating software and continued working on the pictures and strip. The software allowed me to turn the pictures and story into a digital comic, which ended up running about 300 pages! SOTA toys learned about this and invited me to meet with them. At San Diego Comic Con, I received several promotional figures from SOTA and kept on taking pictures.
DTB: That’s pretty amazing! Where did you go from there with it?
BC: As fascinated as I was with the detailing that SOTA put into the Street Fighter toys, what really caught my attention was Hot Toys and Sideshow collectibles. Seeing the incredible detail and accuracy of those figures really impressed me and further inspired me to take toy photos. I retired my old camera and bought a professional digital camera and a better lighting set up, then I got started. What really makes this fun for me is that my son, who loves Marvel Legends also enjoys taking pictures and makes some stop motion videos. That takes more patience than I have.
DTB: I completely understand that. I make stop motions from time to time myself and it’s a measure of my own growth in patience that I can do it. I was looking at your pictures, online, and am really impressed!
BC: The biggest thing that I pride myself on and what I’m known for is the fact that every one of my pictures is raw. I don’t edit or photoshop any of my work. Of course, this means, that I must very carefully stage each shot because I want it to look just right. The plan is the picture then goes right from camera to social media!
DTB: That is incredible! We talked about having patience for stop motion, but for you to take the extra time to get the shot set up exactly how you want it… that requires patience and skill as well. I’m even more impressed. I admit… I do edit my pictures before posting, mainly because I use my phone for the bulk of my figure review pictures. So, do you purchase or build your own dioramas for the pictures you’ve taken?
BC: I have built some, but I mostly purchase them. Unfortunately, I don’t have the amount of space that I’d like to have in order to really set up my displays. One day though, I’ll be able to build larger dioramas and have a room set up, like yours. I am, however, working on a “Saloon” diorama for my 1/6 scale Arthur Morgan from Red Dead Redemption 2. (Brian showed me the dio pieces and… all I can say is… WOW!)
(I think Brian was a bit impressed with the Geek Tower. 😊)
BC: I actually prefer shooting outdoors. Some of my favorite shots are exterior and it allows me to take advantage of the scenery and natural lighting. I also have learned some great tricks with lighting, or rather, minimizing the lighting, which allows the shadows to have more play, giving the figure more depth and making the pictures look more powerful.
DTB: I don’t get outside with my camera as much as I’d like and most of my photos are in my lightbox for reviews, but hopefully some weekend, I can get outside in the snow and get some good photos. Please, tell me about the magazine. What inspired you to start Toytography?
BC: I guess, to go back to the beginning, I started out by selling my photos. I was asked if I would like to share my work in a gallery. It turns out, I was the ONLY artist that day and my work was very well received. I then met a photographer from Washington D.C. who I introduced to the concept of Toy Photography. He shared that I was undercutting myself and that I should list my work at higher prices. I initially was like…’yeah, right’ but then something happened… people were buying my framed photographs and weren’t batting an eye at the prices! I sold a LOT of my work. I was then named “Artist of the Month” on the YouTube channel “Photomentor” and did an interview with them. It was in this interview that the term “Toytography” was coined, and I became a “Toytographer.” Back in 2020 I set a goal for myself to upload at least one picture per day to my social media and then as time moved on, I started really asking myself where I wanted to go in life. In early 2022, I was down with Covid and though I didn’t have the typical symptoms, I was really fatigued. I spent a lot of time in bed, doing a lot of introspection and reflection on my life. I was in prayer and that was when I felt the Lord lay this on my heart…” If you have all you want in life, what would you do next?” I thought about it and said…” I want to inspire and help people.” I felt the Lord then ask me “what tools do you have to do this?” and I immediately thought about my photography and was led to help inspire people through my camera lens. How could I best help people? I remembered a word that my Pastor had given me previously, when he said that I would become an influencer and that my collection would grow and shrink and grow as I helped people. The idea for the magazine was the next logical step and the intention was never just to use it as a vehicle to feature my work, but rather as a tool for readers to get helpful tips and education. I had a reader once say he was really pleased to see the actual articles on lighting, and equipment, rather than a bunch of toy pictures. I really felt that this would help people get the answers they were seeking on how to improve their own skills in this amazing hobby. I also use the magazine as a platform for other artists. Readers and photographers are invited to submit their work and the only requirement is for them to purchase the issue they are published in. The digital magazine is $15 and we share everything on our social media. This allows up and coming artists to get their work out and get known.
DTB: That is incredible and look at how you’ve been blessed after following God’s leading! I elected to start Dan’s ToyBox as a means to provide people with objective (or at least as objective as I can be) information on action figures, so they can decide if they want to spend their own hard-earned money on something. While not quite as far-reaching as Toytography magazine, I’m working on building an audience. I launched in February, last year, and am about to hit 7500 site visits. (As of this writing, I am at 7519 visits). I really love how we can use these skills to inspire others and help them.
Brian and I spoke about some of the hardships that he and his family went through and how it led them to not only where they are, but the home they live in. The complex where they reside is an art colony and Brian’s work will be featured in their on-site gallery next month. They wouldn’t be living here though, had his wife not listened to God’s nudges to follow up with the building manager. Out of respect for his privacy, that’s all I’ll share on this subject.
DTB: Who would you say are some of your influences or inspirations?
BC: The biggest for me would be an interview I did for the magazine with Terry Smith from Sideshow collectibles. As a big fan of those figures, interviewing him was a dream come true. But, it was also a LOT of work. (chuckles) I had to send drafts to him for Sideshow’s HR department to review and approve. There were some re-writes and some things we removed, but in the end, I had a fantastic time talking with Terry and came away with some amazing insights, which you can read about in the magazine! I eventually would love to interview Mitchel Wu. He is a big business influence for me and has made a huge name for himself in the realm of toy photography. Mitchel has done work for Disney, Hasbro, Mattel… you name it. Ironically, I just interviewed Sgt. Bananas for our recent issue. He is, in reality, Johnny Wu and I later learned, Mitchel’s nephew! Johnny was actually responsible for introducing Mitchel to toy photography, which I learned in our time talking together.
DTB: I’m looking forward that issue! I really appreciate the amount of time you’ve spent with me today. Before we wrap up… I’ve got to ask. What is your favorite figure in your collection and what is your favorite figure for picture taking?
BC: My favorite for taking pictures is the Hot Toys Arkham Knight Batman. While the articulation isn’t the best, due to the armor, this is one of the best-looking figures out there and takes some amazing shots.
My favorite figure though is my Hot Toys Hulkbuster. When it was first released, I was like… there’s no way I’m getting this. I was talking with a friend and he asked how much I thought it would be. I guessed low at maybe $400, then he told me it was over $800! I honestly figured that I’d never get one. Then, one day, I saw online that somebody had one and was asking $1000 for it. He bought it, didn’t have the room and his wife told him to sell it. I was really interested and knew what my wife and I were expecting for our tax returns. I talked with her about it and she told me that she was ok with it. I reached out and the seller said he’d hang onto it for me until our taxes came back. When the day came, I was driving to meet him and the whole way I was asking God…” If I’m not supposed to do this, tell me now.” I got to the building, still no answer from the Lord. I found a parking space, not twenty feet from the door and asked again… still no response. Went inside, waited for the seller to show up and kept asking… no response. The seller came in, we made the transaction and he wanted to talk. I said inwardly “Ok, God… getting down to the last chance.” Nothing. When I left, as I was putting the figure into my car, I felt the Lord remind me of Psalms 37:4 “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.” I didn’t want to do something that God would be disappointed with me and when He reminded me of that scripture, I was immediately reminded of His goodness and His joy in me.
DTB: That is an amazing story and what a way to be blessed with a grail figure you had wanted. Mine is the Haslab Galactus, but $400 is a bit too steep right now. If I’m blessed with one, someday, that will be great. Until then though, I’ll be content with what I am given. I can’t thank you enough for your time with me today and for your patience with having to reschedule the way we did. I am so excited to share this with my readers!
Brian and I have agreed to keep in touch and I’m very excited about that. He’s a great guy, an amazing man of God, and blessed with an incredible talent. Make sure you check him out on Facebook and Instagram and definitely jump onto his website at: https://www.toytographymag.com
As well as seeing his work at: https://www.bcarrphotos.com
I hope you all enjoyed this interview with Brian Carr as much as I have. Until next time, my friends… GEEK OUT!!!!!