In June, West Berlin, NJ, became the home to the country’s first construction theme park, Diggerland. When I first saw the billboard on I-95, I was skeptical, but intrigued. The whole thing seemed like a showcase for JCB construction equipment and a tool to encourage children over 36 inches tall – the height requirement for all the rides – to get interested in a career of labor. But as a photographer, the visual possibilities of the visual possibilities of spinning carnival rides built from big yellow construction equipment seemed endless. So, I bought my tickets. 

Michael Bucher is a photographer and writer in Philadelphia. You’ll find his work, among other places, on The Smart Set, Table Matters, and at JUMP Magazine, where he is the photo editor.

It was headline news a couple months ago. Barbie, the doll, was featured in this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, part of a tribute for the fifty-year anniversary celebration of the magazine’s most popular annual issue. The New York Times, Forbes, CNN, and the Washington Post covered the story; dozens more articles appeared in online publications. “At age fifty-five,” quipped the accompanying feature article in Sports Illustrated, Barbie was the magazine’s oldest “rookie” model but “we’re not buying her ‘no plastic surgery’ claim.” In the days that followed, there was so much negative buzz flying through cyberspace about her appearance in the magazine that Mattel, Barbie’s representative, tweeted that Barbie was #unapologetic about her posing in the Swimsuit issue. Sports Illustrated followed, echoing the same sentiment.

A few weeks later, it was announced that the Girl Scouts was severing its partnership with Barbie, since she no longer lives up to… More…

I collect thumb toys. Few people know thumb toys by name, but most everybody has seen one. Thumb toys are those small figures that stand atop a little pedestal that fits in the palm of your hand. Push a button under the pedestal and tension is released from strings within the figure; it falls. Let go and the figure rights itself.

 

I currently own 152 thumb toys. The breadth of the thumb toy world is impressive. The figures in my collection include robots, ghosts, elephants, turtles, dancing ants, circus strongmen, Curious George, a British cop, a bride and groom, a signing frog who swings on a cattail, Frankenstein, and the Fernsehturm television tower in Berlin.

I offer this as background to why I only started to personally click with the 108th Annual American International Toy… More…

As Harley-Davidson Ken #2, Barbie’s perennial boy toy is presented with a scruffy beard and a stand of old-growth chest hair that would make Tom Selleck proud. His leather and denim duds are accessorized with testeronic man-bling: a heavy-duty Harley belt buckle and a dangling wallet chain. On his left forearm, his tough plastic flesh has been permanently ornamented with a “Born to ride” tattoo. Harley-Davidson Ken Doll #2 is aimed at collectors and the ladies love him. “What I would not have given to have this bad-to-the-bone sexy Ken when I was growing up!!” enthuses one at Amazon. “My Barbie’s [sic] are all falling over themselves trying to get next to this bad boy,” exclaims another.

 

And yet it turns out that even rugged, undomesticated Ken — Ken at his most virile, redolent of leather… More…