Photog' Phee-ture - Jay Tablante!

Starting as a labour of love, our guest for today soon found himself shooting for some of the most popular talents in the pop-culture industry today!

One of the esteemed guests appearing at the upcoming International Cosplay Day Singapore (ICDS) hails from the Philippines. Huge comic book fan and the author of 'Geekology', we get to speak to none other than Jay Tablante!


anibee: Hi Jay, thanks so much for talking to us! Let's open with an introduction of yourself and what you do!

Jay: I'm Jay Tablante, and I'm a professional photographer of ten years (and still counting). I am also an avid comic book and anime geek.

anibee: How did you get started in cosplay photography, and what attracts you to it?

Jay: Shooting cosplay came from various fronts. I was (and still am) a frustrated illustrator. Ever since I bought my first issue of Uncanny XMEN #1 (the spread cover of Magneto), I was immediately hooked to the art. I wanted to draw like that.

So in grade school, I joined art clubs, enrolled myself in summer art workshops, and the such just to hone my craft. Unfortunately, the skill never really took off. I shelved my plans of drawing for comics, but didn't exactly leave the creative field. It was in college when I was introduced to photography care of my cousin who was studying it on the side with her dad's camera. Since she was staying with us during her college years, I got to read a lot of her photography books. With whatever money I got to earn on the side doing odd web design jobs, I bought myself my first camera.

I then took on a loosely arranged internship with a professional photographer for two years. I was assisting him during the weekends in college, or with whatever time I had free. I never really had a social life back then. Hahaha.

I didn't realise a would-be career was born out of it. So I have been shooting for quite some time when the idea of merging my love of pop culture and photography came to be. I was curating my second exhibit, Pop Nostalgia back in 2008, which centered on various homages to classic themes, movies, TV shows, toys and comics. My last piece was a comic panel piece inspired from the XMEN. That got me "formally" introduced into cosplay photography.

Cosplay photography brings together my love for comics, anime and photography. Most of our work are inspired from childhood images, and gives me a playground to realise my superhero fantasies. Hehehe.

anibee: While there are dozens of amazingly talented cosplayers out there, it's a good photoshoot (with a good photographer!) that's important to really bringing out the very best of their work. How do you get the inspiration you need for each and everyone of your works?

Jay: It's a collaborative effort more than anything. I make it a point to have some attachment to the character I want to work on, or at least have some childhood familiarity to it. One noticeable trait that's shared between our images is having that impact when we were kids. I pull out that uninhibited childhood imagination and just let it run to whatever idea comes up into mind.

anibee: In the cosplay scene (especially here in Singapore), there's been an ever-growing aura of pressure to stay 'competitive' with regards to various factors (e.g. keeping up with the latest gear, doing more 'daring' shoots). What's your opinion on this?

Jay: Pop-culture is supposed to be celebrated together, and should foster good camaraderie. Pressures to stay "competitive" could be healthy at some extent, but of course anything in excess is bad in the long run.

As for me, I actually don't care what people think anymore; I'm not competitive in that sense, but I do compete with myself. I am my worst critic, and tend to bash my own work, and that makes me strive to do better the next time. Hindsight is 20/20, so I always use that as a guide.

anibee: While many have been embracing the fact that more corporations are starting to accept and see the uses of cosplay, there are some who are resistive towards this 'commercialisation'. What do you feel about this?

Jay: This is where I take a more pragmatic stance. All the properties (characters) introduced to the public in a sense is already commercialised. They are there for a company's profit so they could produce more comics, anime, movies, etc...

Monetised cosplay for me is a natural evolution when your craftsmanship is recognised by the creators of those same characters, and they are willing to pay you for it.

For example, Hatsune Miku was born out of commercial reasons. Her cosplay appeal was a huge unseen result at first. Any company who wouldn't take advantage of that unique situation would have missed a very huge opportunity.

At the end of the day, as much as it is a passion, you also need funds to fuel that passion. I don't really see that idea of being a so-called "sell-out".

anibee: What's in store for you in the near future?

Jay: I'm currently working on Geekology 2, my next cosplay book and of course always in the lookout for the next character to do.

anibee: Any advice for budding cosplay photographers who want to make a big impact on the scene?

Jay: Never lose the childhood imagination in you!

Indeed, imagination truly is fuel for the amazing - and Jay Tablante's got it in spades! Catch him at ICDS this August!

Check out more of his works at his Facebook and Deviantart pages!

Special thanks to the Neo Tokyo Project, and Jay Tablante for his time!

- Q