Kids + Teens

Play with Your Pictures!

Marcie Jan Bronstein is a photographer and the author of PhotoPlay! Doodle. Design. Draw., a photographic activity book. We asked her to share some behind-the-scenes stories and artwork to inspire summer creativity and activities. Want to try your own hand at PhotoPlay? Download the free PhotoPlay pages and get drawing!

PhotoPlay! was born out of my lifelong love for photography and drawing. The book is filled with my photographs, taken during my travels over the past 25 years. And it’s filled with dozens of names. They’re the real-life names of my family, human friends, and even animal friends. The idea of including the names first came to me when I was searching for a way to open up the prompts, to make the blank part of the page feel like an unfinished part of a small narrative.

Here’s an example. The photograph on this page was taken in Aruba. Ravi is the name of someone who inspired me in art school, so I named the little boy in the photo Ravi. Then, I named Ravi’s imaginary friend Ryan as a nod to the wonderful Chronicle Kids designer who created the PhotoPlay! book cover.


But of course PhotoPlay! is not just about my stories. It’s about the stories people bring to the book. So while I have loved the time I spent (four years!) photographing, designing page spreads, testing pages in classrooms, and writing prompts for PhotoPlay!, my book is really incomplete until it’s filled with other people’s drawings.

Since the release of the the book a few months ago, the most fun I’ve had has been when watching people (of all ages) draw…

Girl Drawing Ravi

At recent signings here in Maine, people created these pages below. Look at the variety of imaginary friends!

Ravi Drawings

The idea for PhotoPlay! came together when I was an “artist-in-residence” at a local preschool. I always gave pages to the kids with some ideas about what they might draw. Of course I was continually surprised (and humbled) by how far “out-of-the-box” the kids went. It was a classic case of the teacher being taught by her students. I’m the author of a book designed to inspire creativity, but again and again, it was me who was inspired…

Girl Drawing Chair

The pages below were created by people aged 3 through 73 at a recent signing at a local bookstore. Such aliens! And such style.

Chair Drawings

Take a careful look at the drawing in red crayon above by the three-year-old boy. He creates, through line, the connection between the gaze of the cats, the alien, the chair…Doesn’t it make you wonder about the depth of what’s really going on when kids “scribble”?

Girl Drawing Dogs

The pages below were created at a book signing at the Portland Museum of Art. Such storytelling and playful, inventive design!

Dog Drawings

Below you see cousins Evelyn (age 7) and Jane (age 19) working collaboratively on the first page spread in the book.

Girls Drawing Jumpers

Here’s their finished page, part Seuss, part Sempé, part Evelyn, part Jane.

Jumper Drawings


Have you completed any PhotoPlay! pages? I invite you to email me your work, which I will add to the PhotoPlay Gallery (filled with hundreds of works!) on my site In This Playground.

Want to try it out? Download some free PhotoPlay! pages. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do!

Marcie Jan Bronstein
Author, PhotoPlay!

Lara Starr

Lara Starr

Lara Starr is Chronicle’s Senior Publicist for Children’s books, and the author of Wookiee Pies, Clone Scones and other Galactic Goodies, Ice Sabers, The Very Hungry Caterpillar™ Cookbook and Cookie Cutters Kit, and Chef Olivia™. Tell her you like her sweater and she’ll tell you exactly what she paid for it.
Lara Starr



  • nik June 20, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Brilliant stuff! So fun to peek into people's imaginations. 🙂


  • archeryvideos October 6, 2014 at 7:27 am

    This is really a very unique book. Now, play with your imagination isn't only can be done in your mind, but it can be realized!! Everyone has their own imagination/perception when looking–and describing–at something, and this book becomes a very perfect dealer for their imagination. Besides, it's also a nice stuff to develop our creativity, especially for kids. Amazing one!


Leave a Comment