Happy Wednesday All!
With all this snow and ice the last few weeks, I’ve got something hot to warm you all up.
About a month or so, via Twitter, I stumbled upon Jay Tablante, an exceptional cosplay photographer based out of the Philippines. Jay’s work is a mix of brilliant ideas, vibrant colors and phenomenal lighting. As a fellow photographer, I just love being blown away by new and killer styles, so naturally I jumped at the chance to feature Jay on my blog.
Take it away Jay!
Me: Please introduce yourself.
Jay: Name: Jason Tablante
Location: Quezon City, Philippines
I'm your avid overall geek, collecting comics, manga and anime. I'm also a commercial photographer by profession, but dabbled in application development for web and graphic design previous to this job.
Me: How did you become interested in photography? Where did you learn your skills?
Jay: I'm a professional photographer by craft, though I've been shooting as a hobby for almost 15 years now.
I was the art director for our high school's publication, and got jealous as to why my photo editor had all the dibs in shooting the pretty muses during the opening of our school's intramurals. I studied in an exclusive all-boys school, so seeing girls on campus drove most of us crazy. Since I was technically a rank higher than him, I thought of joining him for "quality assurance" (yeah right).
But it was college, when I took it quite seriously. My cousin studied photography at the state university (University of the Philippines), and had her darkroom manuals lying around. One afternoon, I was curious enough to read them, and next thing you know I saved up enough money from my part-time job to buy myself an SLR. My bias for studying programming eventually gave way to photography. I took up an apprenticeship with a local professional, and the rest is history after I took the chance of having my own practice a couple of years after.
Me: You’ve taken some stunning cosplay photos. How did you fall into that? Did cosplay come first, or photography?
Jay: I'm a frustrated illustrator. Ever since I was a kid when I started my little collection, I've always wanted to draw like the artists in comic books. I enrolled myself in art classes over the summers (in grade school and high school) back then, invested in a drawing board, countless sketch pads, pencils and inks, and just tried to draw away. Although I think I did some decent classic work on charcoal, craypass and water color, however I just can't seem to get my hold on comics and the sketchy cross-hatch style--plus of course the exaggeration on human anatomy.
That frustration of mine laid dormant over the years (and decades?) until I eventually got trained in photography and have been shooting professionally for a couple of years for ad agencies. It was one of those crossroads during my so-called career when I started to doubt what I was doing (I think it was a bout of quarter life crisis). I love photography and everything about it, but somehow whenever I finished a personal shoot / concept, the satisfaction didn't last that long. Something was lacking. I was quite detached from the subjects I was shooting. It was that geekness approach to the shoot that simply wasn't there, so I sought the means to marry photography and the love for anime, comics, etc...
The local cosplay photography scene is mostly limited to shooting cosplayers during actual conventions, by hobbyists or amateurs. Some would go out of their way, and shoot in parks, but that was just it. It was either in convention halls or parks. Funny enough, it was that "what if" eureka moment that struck me while eating in some hole-in-a-wall dim sum place with our team's production designer, that got me thinking on how we could take cosplay photography to another level. Not to mention there was a rerun of the "X-Men: The Animated Series" being shown in the shop's TV. What if we take what we learned in our industry practices and applied it to a growing genre such as cosplay?
Most, it not all creative directors in ad agencies are bonafide comic book geeks. Getting them into the creative loop during their spare time was like preaching to the choir. It was that fascination of getting to see real-life versions of our favorite characters in photographs that made us push the possibilities of production value. Mixed with some industry help (make-up artists, stylists, production designers), the current body of work right now is nothing short of a collaboration between people obsessed with the genre. It's basically getting your typical cosplay shoot and subjecting them to the best efforts of what the local photography industry could do.
Cosplay photography provided a fresh challenge every time because each character is unique. The way they are lit up, dressed up, and made up are all different. Brainstorming for them was nothing short of fun. We ended up shooting cosplay in between the commercial jobs to stretch our imagination.
At the end of the day, cosplay photography was the perfect avenue for us to show our love for comics.
On a side note, how I wish I could make that "pilgrimage" to the SDCC and go crazy on the cosplayers there.
Me: What was the inspiration for the shots you’ve grabbed? Walk us through your process from idea to shoot to post production.
Jay: For example, the concept for Rogue was sparked by watching that particular rerun of "X-Men: The Animated Series," plus digging up my X-MEN #1 issue. Comics are mostly drawn, but what if we used photography instead of illustration? The particular episode I saw involved Sentinels, and so… What if Rogue was fighting Sentinels? I remembered an art director friend of mine had a huge Sentinel toy in his cubicle; went out on a limb and borrowed it from him.
We thought of the image as if a page was taken out of a comic and puts the viewer in the middle of the action so to speak. What happened before that page and what is going to happen after, we'd leave it to their interpretation.
As for the shoot proper, we shot our cosplayer on-location in an abandoned golf ball factory 30 minutes outside of the city. We had her pose and act out the panels as necessary while imagining the position of the sentinel she's supposed to be fighting. On a separate day, we shot the broken shards of cement that became the flying debris, and mocked up the broken floor and pillar with a to-scale cement model. Each "panel" was shot and edited separately, then finally combined to form the page.
In the Elektra shoot, we wanted to combine some elements from the movie and comics. Our cosplayer/model Nadine has some resemblance to Jennifer Garner, so we took it to our advantage. The costume design was inspired from one of Marvel's local artists Carlo Pagulayan. Elektra got his first penciling gig for Marvel, and the peg was one of his early design studies. As for the scene, I was transfixed on the last part of the movie, when she confronted Kirigi in her ancestral house. This was the part when the white furniture sheets were flying all over the place. I really wanted the furniture sheets in the shot... somehow.
We basically get our inspiration by combining workable elements already present in the media (e.g. comics, movies, animation, etc...).
Post-productions were inspired from photographers such as Dave Hill, Jim Fiscus and David La Chapelle for their surreal feel. Most of their work almost borders on digital painting, which I think could bring cosplay photography beyond just shooting somebody in a nice costume.
(The girls who cosplayed Rogue and Elektra are actually sisters.)
Me: Each cosplayer you photograph fits the characters to a T! How did you meet them?
Jay: Most are friends and some I've met in the industry, or who other cosplayers referred to me by word of mouth. I check out the cosplay events during conventions to find out if there's somebody out there with the right costume and matching face. Since the local scene here isn't that big as compared to the U.S., eventually people would know each other in less than 6 degrees... it's easy to ask about a particular cosplayer through friends of friends, etc...
The cosplayer who did the Gambit shot is a local actor in Manila (Paolo Paraiso). He's also an X-Men geek like me, and his room is plastered with X-Men posters. Paolo was hooked with Gambit and since a kid; he'd daydream of having his own mutant powers (hehehe). When I told him about my plans almost a year ago, it's like the child in him just resurfaced. He started bringing out his collection, and bugged me months on end when we could do the shoot. Using his modeling & acting background, plus his obsession with the character, he method-acted Gambit on-set (From what he knew of the animated series and the Wolverine movie). All that lacked were the actual mutant powers.
Me: I take it you are a Marvel fan. How did you get pulled into the Marvel Universe?
Jay: The first comic I ever bought was an issue of UNCANNY XMEN way back in grade school (Grade 4 I think, I was 10 years old). Ever since then I was hooked. But I'm a compilations kind of guy over the years, so I wait out on the books. They're easier to keep and read. I was also an avid collector of the trading cards.
My fascination all started with the X-Men and eventually into the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Spider-Man... But what probably got me immersed in the universe was THE INFINITY GAUNTLET (man this really tells of my age). Other story arcs that got me reading were "Days of Future Past," "X-Tinction Agenda," "Dark Phoenix Saga," and "X-Men: Phoenix - Endsong."
My collection stopped in college, but I picked it up again a couple of years back when I got CIVIL WAR. I'm currently reading X-23 (kudos to Marjorie Liu, she writes good stuff), and X-Force right now through the iPad app. I skipped out on the SECRET INVASION though... Skrulls scare me.
You could say I'm a sucker for massive story arcs involving a lot of the characters, so I can't wait for FEAR ITSELF.
Thanks, Jay! With more amazing Marvel photos in the making, plus a trip to New York Comic Con later this year, I'm quite sure you'll be hearing from him again soon!
Want more from Jay? Check out his site, jaytablantephotography.com, his facebook page and follow him on twitter @jaytablante
Plus, dig into his 18 page feature in Digital Photographer Philippines magazine.
Look forward to more from me and cosplay in the next few weeks, with MvC3 out next week, Katsucon and more studio photos!
Oh and if you're making it to Katsucon next week, make sure to swing by the Marvel vs. Capcom 3 gathering. Click here for more info!
[Edited By Moderator]