Interview: abuwhobi

I plan the scene like most landscape photographers do: a combination of ex-ante preparation and luck on site. Before I go out, I do a lot of googling for information about the place and have a very rough idea of what I would like to photograph…

When and why did you start collecting dolls and taking photos of them? Can you tell us what your beginnings looked like? What kind of dolls do you focus on? Do you also collect scale figures or Nendoroids?

I got my first doll in 2016. Before that, I had been collecting and taking photos of figures and Nendoroids for about two years. Now I have two smart dolls and two Azone dolls (50cm). The reason for getting dolls was simple: they are perfect models. I think that most figure/doll photographers here had their interests in figures/dolls first and then developed the ideas of taking nice photos of their collection. I took quite the opposite way. I thought dolls are better substitutions for figures and real people for my portrait photography needs (larger than scale figures, lower cost and effort involved than real people; oh, and most importantly, more satisfaction from my wife).

How do you plan the scenes and what kind of results are you trying to achieve?

I plan the scene like most landscape photographers do: a combination of ex-ante preparation and luck on site. Before I go out, I do a lot of googling for information about the place and have a very rough idea of what I would like to photograph. Then I leave all to luck: the weather might be bad or there may be no proper foreground though I search for 30 mins, but I still enjoy exploring the unknown.

The effects I want to achieve vary from photo to photo; for example, a representation of a film scene or poster, capturing the beauty of nature. Overall, I have one ultimate goal: people can appreciate doll photography just like other photography genres.

How is collecting dolls and taking photos of them seen as a hobby in Canada?

Many people collect dolls in Canada. Every year, we have a few doll gatherings with all hobbyists, custom designers/makers and dealers attending. Taking doll photos is obviously what most doll owners will do. But doing “doll photography” is a very niche hobby. Canadians are open-minded and friendly, so I always enjoy talking to strangers who know little about the hobby but are very interested in what I do.

Do you use any special photography or post-production technique?

I use Photoshop and many techniques such as all kinds of blending, masking, stacking, D&B, touching with plugins and my own filters and Luts. None of them is special because I basically learn from other photographers. I think the best technique is that people do not even feel the existence of it.

What is the favourite doll photo you have ever taken and which one was the most challenging one? Can you tell us more about them?

I would say the one I took in Jasper after hiking for 10km. It is not my best or most challenging technically. But I will never forget how I overcame the distance with the doll sitting in my camera bag.

What cameras and lenses do you use to photograph the dolls?

Currently, I use Sony A7R IV and 24 1.4 GM, 50 1.4 ZA and Sigma 85 1.4 DG DN. I have bought and sold over 30 lenses in 4 years. I might need to settle down, lol.

What would you recommend to someone who is considering to start collecting dolls and taking photos of them? What camera and equipment would you recommend to start with?

I did my PhD in economics and talked about rational choices all day. But here I would like to make an odd recommendation: buy the most expensive equipment within your budget! Two reasons: 1. Then you will have no excuse for producing unsatisfying photos; 2. Satisfaction often comes from the action of buying rather than the actual use or needs. I am sure your money will be “wasted” somewhere else if not on cameras or lenses.

To those who seriously want to improve their photography techniques, I would recommend to look outside the doll/figure community and learn from the top landscape/portrait/still life or whatever photographers, both techniques and aesthetics.

What do you consider the most important doll photography achievement you have ever accomplished?

The biggest achievement I have ever accomplished: now my wife begins to appreciate my photos just as she appreciates photos by other Figubo members.

Is there any upcoming doll project you are going to surprise us with?

No plan so far. Everyone’s plan now has one condition: after Covid 19…

What other hobbies do you have besides doll photography?

Too many, to name a few: classical music, HiFi, games, soccer, food…

What is your favourite anime and anime character?

We all know when we talk about the favourite one, 1 equals to 5 or more lol. If it has to be anime only, my favourite is Byousoku 5 Centimeter (5 Centimeters per Second) and my favourite character is Megumi Kato from Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata. More broadly, of all ACG, my favourites are Tifa and Aerith from Final Fantasy VII.

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