Most people rarely ever think about the laborers who put hours of work into making items that are so readily found in bulk, but photographer Michael Wolf offers some insight into the reality of where toys are made in his series titled The Real Toy Story. The project gives a whole new perspective to those dolls and action figures consumers purchase at any given store by revealing the countless Chinese factory workers slaving away in stuffy environments to construct piles of plastic toys.
Approximately 75% of the world’s toys are “Made in China” so it’s no wonder that there are so many factory workers assembling, stuffing, and painting a myriad of toys. Despite logically being aware that millions of toys require an innumerable amount of laborers, one isn’t fully aware of this concept until it is seen. It is also intriguing to see the deconstructed figures being worked on by an assembly line of diligent hands. The series exposes the viewer to row after row of anonymous faces, but it’s effective enough just to see that there are actual people behind the knickknacks rather than a succession of robotic machines.
Interspersed within the wide shots of the factory are intimate portraits of laborers, giving even more of a human feel to the series. Though Wolf’s project is, at times, depressing, especially when you think about all the hard work these people put into their livelihood everyday without much acknowledgement, it is also eye-opening and insightful. It is through the photographer’s journalistic eye and his decision to share their faces and work environment that they are finally given some much deserved recognition.