Matt Middendorf – aka, @cincymitt on Instagram.

Matt is the force behind the OhioToyKick and a photographer with an instantly recognizable style. He’s also one of the many toy-photographers I’ve come to admire. I found Matt during a ToyPops session and he was an instant follow for me!


courtesy of Matt Middendorf


It’s been a pleasure to watch Matt’s style develop, as well as watch the OhioToyGroup grow. I asked Matt to tell me his story and he obliged.

If you’ve noticed a theme developing here concerning the artists featured here, you’re correct. Originality, passion, modesty and the ability to speak to an audience through images are some of the qualities I’ve found that the artists I admire all possess.

Here’s Matt in his own words:

I began my journey into toy photography a couple years ago after stumbling across several photos on Instagram. I had resisted social media for a very long time until the women in my life suggested Instagram as a more visual and artistic alternative to Facebook. I was amazed at the content I found.


courtesy of Matt Middendorf

The passion and creativity that artist were putting into these “toy pics” just floored me. Then it hit me, I love photography and have a collection of toys just sitting on a shelf staring at me. I’m gonna give this a shot! Well, it fit like a glove.


courtesy of Matt Middendorf

For me, toyphotography is the perfect combination of art and pop culture. Other than music and my family, they are the two things I’m most passionate about. There’s a feeling I get when working with a concept/shot outdoors. It’s the same feeling I had at ten years old, lying in the grass setting up an epic battle between the plastic forces of good and evil. This feeling of nostalgia is no small part one the biggest joys that come from this medium for me. Aside from all this I think it’s also important to recognize the friendships, and amazing people I’ve come to know and love over the last few years. Artist who share the same passions as I do, and folks I’d never have met if it wasn’t for the world of toyphotography.

        – Matt

The bounty hunter.. Working on my night photography all this week, I wanna thank my friends Nick @shakem78 and Grant @grantkilgard for helping me sharpen my night game up ... #OhioToykick #bokeh #DisneyInfinity  #BobaFett  #STARWARS  #EpicToyart #ToyOutsiders  #_Tyton_ #starwarsblackseries  #ToyCollective  #toysaremydrug #wheretoysdwell #toyelites #justanothertoygroup #toyslagram_toyartistry_dual_feature #toyunion #guardiyan  #toyplanet #toyartistry #toptoyphotos  #toycrewbuddies #toygroup_alliance #toyartistry_elite #toyphotography  #cincinnati #ohio #tga_sneakysneaky #tcb_beatit

If you aren’t already following @cincymitt,  Boba would like a word with you



There are a few people on Instagram whose images impress me every time and with out fail. If you follow @the_whaler_ , you know exactly what I’m talking about.


courtesy of @the_whaler_

Rather then me going on about how much I enjoy his work, I’ll let him do the talking. Garth was kind enough to write up a bio explaining how and why he got into toy photography.

When Matt asks you if you want to be a featured artist on his blog/website you say, “Hell YES!”

Before I can say anything about myself, I first have to say how much Matt’s influential work has helped me over my journey through toyphotography. 

A few years ago, when this hobby seemed much smaller and you knew everyone, there were a few guys that were pushing the boundaries of what we all see as the popular trends  today in toyphotography. 

Matt, without a doubt, is hands down one of the pioneers of this hobby and where it’s at today. 

I started off taking (admittedly crappy) iPhone photos of “custom” (I say “custom” loosely, because it was just a black washed figure) Ninja Turtle figure.  I had seen Al_Figures’ videos on youtube and was determined I was going to be a diorama maker. I desperately needed a creative outlet, and I found myself on Instagram. 

I’m not a social media guy, so IG seemed like a far stretch for me to even dive into. 

It wasn’t long before I stumbled across Matt’s page, and instantly knew–I knew dios weren’t my thing, but OUTDOOR toyphotography was what I wanted to do!!

Holy cow –was I blown away! The creativeness I saw on Matt’s page, and a few other guys just captured my attention. How were these figures flying by holding onto leaves? (I’ve still never seen anyone even attempt to replicate those genius shots Matt did so long ago). How were these explosions taking place within shots? And people really went outside in the hot, cold, wind, and mosquito filled lands to get a figure with a beach sunset in the background?! No friggin way!!!!

Yes. Yes way!

So, I did some research into DSLR starter kits. (I hadn’t owned a camera since my Pentax film camera of high school days). It was like toyphotography and the stuff I was seeing reminded me how much I loved photography as a whole!! 

I had basic compositions down and simple stuff like that, but I fumbled around for months before I felt like I got stuff I was happy with. 

KABOOOM! I figured a way to get a setup, practical effects, and everything all in one shot all by myself with a remote trigger!! 

I felt like a champ when I pulled off these (admittedly bad) early shots. But not too many people were pushing the boundaries at that time, and I felt like I had made some of the greats of IG proud. 


courtesy of @the_whaler_

From there I just tried to pull off different things. When I felt like I tackled a certain skill, I tried to move onto other ideas so I wouldn’t get stagnant. 

It took me a while, but I realized that I needed to create my own “style” within the community. 

Style is a funny thing. Some people will shoot the same figures all the time, and in today’s oversaturated IG world, it’s hard for me to tell people’s work apart from others, but certain people stand out no matter what they shoot. 

I can ALWAYS tell certain artists’ work without even seeing their screen name. Those, to me, are the true artists. I’ve learned over time that that’s what’s important to me. Being able to know right away that, “Hey, that’s totally XYZ’s shot!” just by the style and tone means you’ve differentiated yourself from others (which can be a task in and of itself). 

I have a long way to go before I’m ever truly happy with something, and I think seeing the spectacular work of so many artists in the community pushes us all to step outside of our comfort zones (or at least I hope it does). 

I’ve had quite a few people over the years come to me with questions, tell me I’ve inspired them, and just treated me like a brother within this community that I hold it in a special place. I can always retreat to this hobby when I’m having a bad day (or good day!) and just get lost in everyone’s work, and for that, I say thank you to everyone who’s been a part of this community and hobby. 

– Garth –

If you aren’t already following @the_whaler_ he’s most certainly one of the premier toy photographers that you really ought to be following. 


courtesy of @the_whaler_


Instagram User of Interest


I’m completely taken by this shot from Instagram user, long time friend and follower, @action_figure_addict .

He has a behind-the-scenes, follow up shot posted as well. The amount of time and ingenuity it took to pull this shot off was well worth the effort.

Whether you’re just starting out on Instagram, or a long time user, this is a perfect example of a shot that will inspire others to try the same techniques used here. Be sure to give his feed a look and a follow.


– the intimidating first post –

rogueonedeathIf you’re coming here from Instagram, this is the post you were looking for. If you’re coming from somewhere else, how did that happen?

Welcome to C.K.O. or, Captain Kaos Online. This is going to become the home of my photographs and stories. Not all of them, only the ones worth sharing. I also plan to use it for “behind the scenes” work, B-sides, videos, figure reviews and the occasional rant. The look and feel of the blog isn’t set in stone. I have a bad habit of tweaking, and re-tweaking until websites flow the way I want.


The big news to take away from this first post is this. If you’re a toy-photographer looking for some additional web presence, this blog is for you.

 I want to feature you!

I intend to use this blog as a way to expose toy-photography to as many people as I can. One way for me to do this is reach out to other toy-photographers and ask if they want to be featured. The other way is asking you to apply to be a “FEATURED GUEST ARTIST”.

The way it works is this. As often as I can, I’ll sort through the photographer submissions, (I hope there’s a lot) get in touch with the artist that interests me at the time and put together an entire blog entry about that artist. The entry will include a write up, maybe a short bio and up to 5 of your pictures. They don’t have to be your most recent, maybe the ones you think are the best or the shots that best represent your style.

So starting right this very second, if being a guest artist on my blog interests you, email me through the contact form and we’ll get something together.

Don’t forget to sign up to follow the blog so you never miss out on what’s going on.


Nicholas Deak


Samurai Stormtrooper – courtesy of Nick Deak

Nicholas Deak, or @shakem78 on Instagram, has one of the most varied collection of images and figures you’ll find on the social media site.

Quick to leave an encouraging comment on a fellow toy-photographers post, Nick is the embodiment of what the toy-photography community is all about. Always positive, always upbeat, his feed is a pleasure to scroll through. You’ll find everything from Alien to Schwarzenegger and even the occasional Ronald McDonald.

A 38 year old single Dad from New Hampshire, Nick says he used to draw a lot. As he grew older he lost interest. His late Grandmother gave him an older Canon film camera and he was hooked until film became more and more difficult to find. Nick explains how he rediscovered photography, specifically toy-photography and ran with it.

“…a few years go by and I was convinced to start a Instagram page. People said it was a cool site with pictures. So I did and I had the typical selfies and food on it.

One day I was waiting in my work van and I had an old 1980s Snake eyes GI Joe. I made him pose in a breakdancing pose and posted it to IG. The next thing I know someone left a hashtag, something to do with toys, and I clicked on it. There it was.

I saw toys doing crazy things like flying around and in these awesome poses and so much life was to them. So I was inspired from there.”

Big thanks to whoever the stealth hash-tagger was that day!

Nick is one example of the breed of toy-photographers that are my favorites to follow. He interacts, he’s a prolific poster and he’s humble. Seriously, Nick’s pictures are very well thought out and well composed. Leave a compliment on his shot and you’re guaranteed to get a “Thanks very much Bro!”, or something similar, back.


Special Delivery – courtesy of Nick Deak

If you’re here reading this, you most likely already follow Nick and know what I’m talking about.

I certainly hope Nick continues to share images from his imagination with us. It’s been a pleasure to watch his skills as a photographer grow and see his feed progress forward.

Thank you Nick. Keep being the positive influence you are and continue raising the bar for the rest of us.


courtesy of Nick Deak

This is the first of a regular series featuring photographers that influence trends within the toy-photography community. If you’d like to be considered for a feature, contact me through this website. – CK