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The London-based photographer Callum Toy spends 95% of his time thinking about and planning shots. He loves seeing the world through his lens and telling stories through his photographs. Now he shows us what he sees through that camera. Keep an eye on him; we will see his name around in the future.
For our readers who don’t know you, can you give us a short introduction about yourself?
Callum Toy, identical twin. Born and raised in the countryside before taking art seriously in College and University. I studied Graphic Art in Leeds Metropolitan under Clive Egginton (documentary photographer), who really installed my love and curiosity for photography. After University I went home for a year to shoot a number of documentary projects before moving to London to essentially go back to school.
Why are you a photographer?
I find this a really difficult question to answer as after seeing images appear in the trays from B&W printing, I was essentially hooked and the rest has all developed from that. I think it has spawned from this curiosity. I researched foreign correspondence and documentary works for about three years after University in my personal time, the likes of Sebastian Junger and Tim Heatherington (both separately and together), their film Restepo had a real impact on me – how they told the story of simple human survival and suffering and in a very complex situation. I felt that they told the story of the soldiers with such veracity that it really opened my eyes to communicating a subject. Then after being involved with fashion I saw that it is a great vehicle for your voice – be it through your designs or images. Although I’m still searching for how exactly I want to use photography – or what photography can do for me and the message I want to send.
When did you discover you wanted to be a photographer?
When my father gave Michael (my twin brother) his camera at age 15-16. Naturally we fought over it. Most of my teens was spent in extreme sports or photographing them, I saw this as a great outlet for my creativity after the energy was spent BMXing (amongst the other sports), and at this stage I just loved seeing the world though a lens.

Do you think you could practice another kind of art form?
Yes, absolutely, I’m a creative and I would struggle to think of ever constricting myself to just photography. I draw and illustrate as part of creating a concept before photography and am always looking to push the boundaries with the printed image after I’ve finished with it – asking questions like how can I strip this back – take it back the drawing board? Or, what can I do to that single image from the set to help it communicate the subject on its own? Also I design layout and currently have a side project with paper mechanics. These are all balls I have in the air and understanding when working on them is ‘work’ or ‘creative play’ or just procrastination is hard – a very blurred line.
How can we recognize a photo captured by you?
I’m really not sure as I don’t like to think that I own a style yet or have really settled on something that is visually distinctive. Although, it feels like I’m getting closer.
It seems that every picture you captured has a story. Is that what you want with your pictures? Are you, besides a photographer, also a storyteller?
I think that being a ‘story teller’ is part of the package of photography as people are looking to read into pictures – whether that’s the intention or not. A portrait photographer for example at its best has the ability to tell the story of the sitter and all of the joys, hardships and suffering they have ever been through in their lives within one, or a set of images. Within my own images I love working with sets and series – even within longer a story, like a diptych within a set of 5, 6 or 12. As this lends itself to add to, or break up the flow of series – either adding to the subject matter or giving something to the reader that makes them question your intentions. With regards to what I want with my work – I’m not entirely sure yet, there is an underlying message and I think that this will reveal itself in time.
As a photographer do you see the world through a lens? Are you looking around in your private time thinking about good shots or stories?
Not through the lens – but with the lens in mind. At first I liked to get in the middle of the action with a lot going on around me, but now when I’m using the camera, everything needs to stop (in my head that is). I do spend 95% of my time thinking about and planning shots but I don’t have a camera glued to me the whole time. If I go on holiday or on a day off and have my camera I’ll have shots in mind.

One of your series is called Break up. Does your personal life inspire you?
The shoot Break up was in response to Brexit – shot shortly after the results came out. The stylist and I came up with the idea of combining the punk, with the almost quintisental countryside of Oxfordshire using a couple that feel torn by opinion. I feel that this story still ends on a question. So yes, things that I’m inspired or influenced by work their way into my imagery, it being a conscious effort or not.
It seems that you don’t choose the classic models for your work. What are you guidelines for choosing models?
The term ‘classic model’ makes my think of the 90’s and how fashion was telling people how to look – I feel that it’s been turned on its head and now the industry is leaning toward individuals and their unique qualities which I find exciting. Casting for me is more of who fits the story both in look and personality – sometimes it’s not both that fit and this is where it gets tricky.
Whose work do you admire and why?
Eugene Richards’ work I find incredible and inspiring – this is a photographer who truly embraces his subjects. His ability to tell the stories of the people suffering in the world – both in image and words – I’ve always admired. Lynd Ward is another – I love his perspective and terrifyingly expressive close up. The way he manages to tell stories through a set series of images is remarkable. Garry Winogrand, an excessive and incredible street photographer. Also Elliot Erwitt who was serious about not being serious, and created a fun book called Sequentially Yours.
Do you have a dream project you would love to shoot in the future?
I really struggle to plan things that are beyond two weeks away, planning and booking a holiday with me is a nightmare. So as far as future projects go – I can only think about the ones that I’m producing at the moment.

Nicole Sijbers
Andy Donohoe

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