• Staff Writer


In a world now dominated by photographs taken with smartphones and swanky digital cameras, it’s refreshing to come across a book that restores a little faith in old-school photography.

Toy Tokyo, by Manami Okazaki.
Kingyo Books, Art book.

The setup for author Manami Okazaki’s “Toy Tokyo” is relatively straightforward: She introduces simple-system cameras such as the Holga, Diana, Lomo LC-A, Horizon, Fuuvi and the Zero pinhole one by one, interviews the creators of each device, includes photos of localized factory visits and talks to photographers who use the lo-fi equipment as a tool for self-expression.

Toy photography is often likened to the Impressionist art movement of the 19th century, and the poor quality of the lenses often creates ambiguous, dreamy images that spawn feelings of nostalgia.

All the people interviewed in this book are probably closer to being artists than traditional photographers, in the sense that they do not attempt to reproduce a scene as it appears in front of them but rather one they can imagine. Think photos that are softly lit, slightly blurred and oddly surreal in terms of atmosphere. Such photography typically has an accidental quality about it, where the users are at the mercy of uncontrollable things such as distortion and light flares. It also requires plenty of patience, and an understanding of the basic mechanics of photography.

Okazaki has obviously gone to some lengths to ensure she covers a broad range of camera manufacturers and photographers in the course of her research, and her diligence is reflected in the final product. The only real complaint I would have with this luscious publication is that the format is simply not large enough to get a real sense of the beauty contained in each image.

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