Shelly Corbett is a fine arts photographer based in the Pacific Northwest. She was introduced to the mysterious world of photography at nine years old when her father bought her a used Kodak Starflash 120 camera at a local flea market. But it wasn’t until she was at university and pursuing her Bachelor of Fine Art that she realized the potential of photography as a creative medium. Corbett has used this adaptable medium to pursue her inner vision ever since.
The word “seeker” best describes the themes in Corbett’s photographic work. Whether she’s taking pictures of women underwater, clothed only in fabric, or small plastic toys in nature, her work reflects a personal journey to understand her place in the world. Universal truths are often revealed under the watchful gaze of the photographic lens and the artist’s critical eye. Corbett’s work features themes such as vulnerability, human connections, a thirst for adventure and an idealized childhood. Her images share an ever-present sense of intruding on a private moment.
Corbett’s recent works, where toys are her primary subject, offer a sense of fun and a healthy dose of childish innocence. As the world grows more complicated and stressful, she invites viewers into a quiet and peaceful alternate world—a secret world of toys. Unlike her earlier work, which focused on intimacy and femininity, her latest work focuses on toys and how we use them to connect to the present and the past.
Always blurring the line between painting and photography, Corbett’s early underwater nudes were often compared to Gustav Klimt and the Art Nouveau movement. She continues to explore this nexus between photography and painting by combing her photographs with encaustic, an early painting medium that combines beeswax with oil paint. This unusual technique, used in conjunction with a short, photographic depth of field, results in a unique piece of art inspired by both photography and painting.
Besides seeking out universal stories through her photographs, Corbett has written extensively over seven years about her creative journey. By sharing her photographic knowledge, personal doubts and successes, and her artistic process, she has inspired many amateur toy photographers to take their work to the next level. Currently her writings can be found at ToyPhotographers.com, which Corbett continues to guide with a group of passionate volunteers.
Because of her keen focus, nearly exclusively, on the LEGO minifigure, it wasn’t long before Corbett’s work came to the attention of The LEGO Group (TLG). She helped raise the profile of toy photography through her blogging and gallery exhibitions, and The LEGO Group came to see this unique hobby as a new way to showcase their product. Inevitably, thanks to their shared love of play and storytelling, TLG and Corbett formed a partnership. In 2017 Corbett started working with LEGO Ideas to create unique images that showcased their products. Over the years, TLG has slowly pivoted further toward the toy photography community. They have used Corbett’s work in Build the World, Technic, City and Ninjago Dragon campaigns. Corbett is currently a Lego Ambassador through her efforts on the Women’s Brick Initiative. The WBI is a recognized LEGO Online Community dedicated to inspiring, supporting and empowering women in the LEGO community.
Like many artists, Corbett enjoys connecting with people through her work. She exhibits her photographs at art fairs, galleries and pop culture conventions. Through these interactions she is able to close the circle between artist, subject and viewer.
Corbett’s images have been featured in PopInsider, Geek Wire, Huffington Post, Petal Pixel, Evening Magazine, Bricks Culture, Bricks, The Toy Chronicle, Shutterbug and Seattle Refined.