Friday, December 23, 2011

Spotlight (and Flashes) - Jay Tablante the Geek Photographer

Mention model photographer and one tends to imagine a stereotypical image of an arty-farty metrosexual male yelling, "Turn that way, dahling... Faaboooulous.. " while busily snapping away with his camera in a studio.

When Red Dot Diva met Filipino cosplay photographer Jay Tabalante at Geekology 101 earlier this month, she found that he hardly fits the bill.

Bright-eyed and articulate, Jay Tablante was not the affected sort at all. In fact, he was very eager to connect to the small group of cosplayers and photographers who attended the event.

True to his geek roots, he wore a black superheroes t-shirt paired with common blue jeans, and peppered his stories with amusing anecdotes concerning photography and pop-culture.

Jay Tablante's powerful sense of imagination and excitement about his work was undeniably infectious. Red Dot Diva certainly bore witness to that during the event. And one cannot deny that he has an eye for interesting photographic angles and set-ups.

In between his well-attended workshop and live demonstration, Red Dot Diva managed to sit with Jay and unmercifully grilled him with nosy questions about his work on set and in the studio. So much so, that poor Jay was starting to lose his voice mid-way through the interview!

Red Dot Diva: So how much of a geek are you... really?
Jay Tablante: The first comic I ever bought was X-Men #1 with Jim Lee and Chris Claremont. There was the gatefold cover with the X-men characters, and I was sold. I was 10 years old, and ever since, I collected comics. And I crossed over to anime, and started watching "Macross" and "Gundam" and I got stuck with the interest.

Red Dot Diva: So do you still have a lot of your comics collection?
Jay Tablante: I do, I do! I stopped for awhile and then I started buying again. I started again with "Civil War" with Marvel and "Blackest Night". Now, I buy selectively depending on the stories because you can download many of these now. And if it's a good story, I'll buy a physical copy of the comic.

Red Dot Diva: In your opinion, and in your years of experience in photography, which is more true? Are models good actors, or are actors good models?
Jay Tablante: That's a pretty interesting question. You know, not all models can be actors and not all actors can be models. Personally, I like to work with actors. They tend to have an added dimension of being able to get into the characters. I like actors for cosplay shoots, beyond just posing, sometimes you have to distort your face for the character. Some of the models are a little hesitant about distorting their faces but actors don't care. To them, it's a role.

Red Dot Diva: So you are saying they are much easier to direct?
Jay Tablante: Yes, they are. It's much easier to direct them. You can tell them, I want you to feel depressed or I want you to feel anger, like you are beating somebody up. Or if you are drunk... For them to get into the role.

Red Dot Diva: How do you actually go about planning for a cosplay shoot? Is there a set of steps that you go through for each shoot?
Jay Tablante: First comes the character. From there, I think about where I want to put my character, and then who do I want to play the character. Everything builds around these three things. These factors will tell me what props I should get, where to shoot it. It takes about an average 1 month of concept work to actual realization. Two weeks to prepare, one week to prepare to shoot it, and one week of post-production.

Red Dot Diva: Do you do these shoots one at a time or concurrently?
Jay Tablante: We used to do it one at a time so that my team a rest. But we are planning to get to STGCC next year and so, we are already preparing as early as now. So I'm doing a huge timeline of one project which can be at pre-production and then it will be handed over to a team, and then I will start on another character. With the chart, I am able to see the sequence of each shoot and which stage it is at. 

Red Dot Diva: Has there ever been tantrums on set before? And how did you deal with that?
Jay Tabalante: Yes. Not so much with cosplay photography but I have faced that with commercial shoots. I had a model walked out of the set because she said she hadn't slept for two days. And she was freaking out and saying she couldn't handle this anymore and wanted to go home.

We take it in stride and not take it against them personally. Sometimes they do have personal reasons. However, some of them can be complete divas. When I was a newbie, they used to command me in a shoot. Over the years, you start to grow fangs and once they are in the shoot, you have to assert to them that "I am the photographer, I am the director, you will follow what I say. And we'll get the shot." If you follow what I say, we'll do it quickly and you're out of here quickly.

Red Dot Diva: What other cosplay characters do you aim to style and photograph?
Jay Tablante: I have a long list!
Red Dot Diva: I know that, but there must be a character that's stirring deep inside of you, that you are burning to do one day....
Jay Tablante: Wow.. wow.. You know what it is?? Archie. Characters from the Archie comics. I have been so frustrated with Archie! It's one of those comics with such iconic characters and I want to shoot a tableau shot of all of them at Pop Tate's - the diner. And they are chatting and talking or whatever. But that will be almost 24 characters in one scene and that's just insane!
Red Dot Diva: And there's Jughead!
Jay Tablante: That's such a magical question. It's so easy to identify Archie. As for Jughead, we aren't even sure if he's Mexican, he's white.. he's such Jughead with that nose. And that crown. It is easy to identify the other characters but yes, Jughead is the biggest challenge.

Red Dot Diva: What has been the best cosplay costumes you've seen recently?
Jay Tabalante: There was this bunch of guys who cosplayed the Ghostbusters at this year's New York Comic Con. Even their proton packs worked. They had lights. And they even had a guy cosplay Slimer and was walking around in green underwear.

Red Dot Diva: How do you describe your own photography style?
Jay Tablante: I like people to wonder if it's a photograph or not. Surreal would be the word. That's the style I want to go with, personally.

Red Dot Diva: You have mentioned that you like visiting Singapore as it is becoming an arts centre for the region. Is there some place here that inspires you to do a cosplay shoot?
Jay Tablante: My interactions with local cosplayers here have been limited and I'm hoping to meet more of them at this event. I would think that I would like something done at Chinatown or Fort Canning. Things that has history and a lot of texture to it, like the old shophouses. And maybe for the anime characters, to yank them out of their usual settings. Most of these characters are classically inspired or look Victorian or Asian-styled, and it would be interesting to put these familiar characters in another era or a different situation, and make people do a double-take.

Red Dot Diva: I hear you will be doing a photo book soon. Tell us more about it and when will it be launched?
Jay Tablante: It is also called Geekology 101 and it's a cosplay photography book. I hope to release for next year during STGCC. We are still shooting and gathering material. All of these shots here (in the exhibit) will be in the book. We hope to have it out by June/ July next year.
Red Dot Diva: Will you be having your own booth at STGCC 2012? 
Jay Tablante: Hopefully! I'm crossing my fingers.

Well, Red Dot Diva certainly hopes that Jay will be able to make a big colourful splash in next year's STGCC, which incidentally will be held at a new location - the swanky Marina Bay Sands.

Do Not Mess With Diva and Tabalante Biceps!

And hopefully, he will also be flexing his talented photographic biceps to do a very Singapore-styled cosplay shoot with familiar faces that same week too!

Diva loves these signed goodies from Jay!


Check out more of Jay Tablante's photography and gallery at his website, and or his Facebook page!

1 comment:

  1. Cool! I didn't even know there was such a thing as cos-play photography. Wow! You keep expanding my horizons.