Maria's nails always look fierce in her photo-play. Photo Credit Maria Godsk Bruun.

Toystagram: The new adult playtime

5 mins read

I was at a Broadcast and Media careers fair recently and overheard advice from a successful men’s lifestyle blogger about how to stand out from all of the other blogs out there — ‘take something you’re interested in and do something different with it.’

I went home racked my brain for the answer to the six million dollar student question —‘What can I offer the world?’ I thought back to my blog for fellow collectors of the 1990s Bluebird toys Polly Pockets, which only got as far as a domain name and the Instagram I set up last summer to photograph my collection to put it to some use, instead of hording it in drawers and suitcases.

Polly P collection
How my Pollies used to be stored. Photo credit: Hayley Burrell

While researching an academic paper about the internet fandom of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I discovered the art of Photo-Play. Fans of My Little Pony (Bronies) set up Instagram and Flickr accounts to create tableaus of their toys against indoor and outdoor backdrops as a type of visual fan-fic.

Feeling inspired to finally have a use for my cluttered collection, I created my own Polly Pocket Instagram account. When I started in May 2016, there were only 12 accounts that I could find who had beaten me to the trend.

I posted a few pictures but then took a hiatus during the academic year, believing it was silly and a waste of time. However, the careers fair reminded me that this was something a little different and which I am passionate about. When I reconnected with my account, I found that there were now over 100 Polly Pocket Photo-Play pages with hundreds of photos and thousands of followers.

With approximately 350 sets including variations, Coralie C (aka Polly Pocket Addict) from France is probably one of the biggest Polly Pocket collectors. She was the first account I followed when I joined Instagram under my own handle Polly Pocket Fanatic. For Coralie, Polly Pocket is about nostalgia and playing away the hours with girlfriends when she was younger. She told Brig: “I love these little worlds full of secret hiding places and they are all different from each other. My favourite set is the 1994 Starbright Dinner Party — I used to play with that in the dark before bedtime.”

Coralie pic
Coralie’s Polly Pocket collection is something to behold. Photo Credit: Coralie C.

One branch of Photo-Play, (dubbed dollstagram) that has recently gone viral is Tiff The Barbie. The Instagram page has been running for two years since her model days and a whirlwind romance with Ken, but Tiff the Barbie’s popularity has seen an explosion from 10,000 to 80,000 followers since baby blogger Sara McGinnis posted an article about the story-telling page of Barbie as a millennial wife and mother to Kelly and Wyatt.

The pictures are posed in familiar photo-ops you see on Facebook from baby bump countdowns to tableaus of idyllic family goals like picnics and movie nights.

Instagrammers who collect and photograph a wide range of toys including Barbies, Polly Pockets and My Little Pony are known as  the toystagram community. One such collector is Maria Godsk Bruun Ervill from Denmark, who is the face behind You Tube and Instagram accounts MeVintageToys with a following of almost 19,00.

She started the account two years ago to showcase her collection and fight the stereotype that you don’t have to be male, in your 30s and no social life to be a collector. Maria told Brig: “I love to make people remember their childhood and good times. And for me it’s not about how many I collect, all my toys are special to me — in my opinion, that’s the difference between a hoarder and a collector.”

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