I recently attended one of the talks by Singaporean toy photographer Sunny Ang (a.k.a. zekezachzoom). His talks are on throughout July 2017. Sunny’s work first came to my attention during a recent Singapore Toy Game Comic Convention. The photograph entitled “Dog Doo” caught my eye that day.
Looking through his work I loved how each photograph made you smile and how the toys felt so natural in each scene. Over the following months I would see his work pop up on the Internet. Most photographs would have a humorous pop culture reference and his trademark red quotation marks.
How Did Sunny Get Started with Toy Photography?
Despite his work being so distinctive, his journey into toy photography was less straightforward. Sunny actually studied engineering in school and briefly pursued it as a career. Perhaps his creative spirit was struggling in that field and Sunny made the daring choice to switch over to graphic design and has been in it for 20 years now.
But like many of us, that sense of wonder and imagination really started at the movies, and Star Wars left a big impression on him.
While moving into graphic design was a proactive choice, he recounted how toy photography was just something that happened by chance.
“One day, I picked up a Spiderman action figure, placed him on the ledge, and shot a picture of him gazing down at the streets below, as if preparing to leap off and save the world. I discovered the huge toy photography community on Instagram and haven’t stopped shooting and posting toy photographs since.”
Crafting His Own Photography Style
He hasn’t looked back since, crafting a style and treatment quite his own. A hallmark of his toy photographs is the use of puns and humour. Inspired by single-panel cartoons by Gary Larson, he has gone on to adapt the same comical storytelling approach.
The use of those big bold red quotation marks is another trademark of Sunny’s work. He recounted how when he first started out he was still trying to come up with his own style. While figuring out the captions and his own watermark, Sunny reused a set from a past client project. It was only meant to be a temporary solution, but one day he got a message from Scottish toy photographer Stuart (non_1072). Stuart mentioned each time he saw those red dots, he knew he was in for a treat. So Sunny decided to keep them as part of his style.
Here are some of my favourite toy photographs from Sunny’s Instagram feed:
Never Let an Idea Slip Away
Listening to Sunny, one of his key tenants is to never let an idea slip away! You need to write it down or scribble a quick sketch. You can never tell when a great idea could land in your head. Here is example of a sketch and the final photograph.
5 Tips on Toy Photography
- Never let an idea slip away, always write it down
- The photograph needs to tell a story that makes the toy come alive
- Understand the characters of the toys to inspire unique scenarios
- Improvise! Blu tack, wires, old iPads, anything could be a prop or shoot equipment
- Ignore the stares of passerbys as you work to get that right shot
Storytelling Through Photography
With what I’ve told you so far, it might surprise you to know that Sunny doesn’t consider himself a technically-savvy photographer. He uses a basic DSLR with a kit lens and prefers to focus on the story he is trying to tell.
It is this quality about him that I think makes Sunny’s work so memorable. It speaks to the child and adult in all of us. Through “the power of your imagination” and “keeping your inner child curious”, Sunny Ang brings to life tiny worlds that tell epic tales.
If you are interested to learn more about toy photography in Singapore, I recommend joining the Facebook group Plastic Singapore. If you would like to learn more about Sunny Ang:
- This is a great interview by Red Dot Diva
- Sunny’s official website with store
- Sunny’s Instagram feed
- Sunny shares the story behind his trademark red quotation marks
Do you have a tip to share about toy photography? Who are your favourite toy photographers?
Share with us by leaving a comment below.
I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any feedback, drop me an email or leave a comment below. May the Force be with you!