Interview: TheTravelingSee

Most people are very curious and oftentimes supportive when they see me taking photos of figures in public. They tend to ask courteous questions and are sometimes interested in potentially assisting with whatever shoot I may be doing at the time.

You focus mainly on Nendoroids and dolls. When and why did you start collecting them and photographing them? Can you tell us what your beginnings looked like? Do you also collect scale figures?

Ironically, I actually disliked both dolls and Nendoroids when I first saw them. The disproportionate head-to-body ratio of the Nendos and the uncanniness of the dolls proved to be off-putting for my sentiments at the time. My first figure was a scale of Yuki Nagato from The Disappearance of Yuki Nagato. It was only after I viewed the diorama tutorial videos and subsequent toy photography by Kixkillradio that I finally became interested in collecting at all. After a particularly poor relationship in my first year at university (2016), I found it necessary to occupy my time with an activity. Figure photography became the medium through which I was able to express myself artistically all the while being able to set aside my grievances at the time.

Kixkillradio nearly single-handedly won me over on Nendoroid collecting with this diorama. Her style of photography is so simple and raw, yet the beauty and elegance remain all the same.

My first photos were simplistic, but the inherent act of capturing the small figures still filled me with profound joy. And although the full extent of my history with figure photography is more nuanced, essentially, Nendos made me happy, so I continued taking photos of them.

To be honest, I do not remember what prompted me to purchase my first doll. I believe that I was frustrated with the limitations that Nendoroid photography inherently possessed. Although not impossible, taking a photo of a Nendoroid against a wide landscape is generally impractical given its size. Forcing a perspective can only go so far. Thus, when I saw other types of dolls that many talented photographers were utilizing, I decided to look into them for myself (2018).

I do own several scale figures but as they are not particularly modular and do not cater well to repeated photographic usage, I seldom photograph or purchase them.

Although I am willing to do scale photography, I have yet to create a diorama for one.

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

To be honest, most of the time I do not plan much. I just sort of wing it and hope it works out. That is probably holding me back from moving on to the next level of figure photography, but I have always been a busy and lazy person, so I have never really found the justification for planning something when I could just “learn on the go”.

When it comes to setting up a photo, however, I generally try to make sure that the framing is decent and that there is not too much empty space. Most will probably notice that I do not take particularly “simple” photos. I generally make sure to include a lot of small details just to make sure I fill up the frame. For the photos that I do plan, I generally feel like they are some of my better work.

This photo took me a month to plan and set up. Although I retrospectively believe that there are quite a few aspects that I could have improved on, I contribute my efforts on this photo as being imperative to the development of my own visual style.

How is collecting Nendoroids and photographing them seen as a hobby in the United States?

Most people are very curious and oftentimes supportive when they see me taking photos of figures in public. They tend to ask courteous questions and are sometimes interested in potentially assisting with whatever shoot I may be doing at the time. Honestly, were it not for the assistance of some kind bystanders, I most likely would not have taken a few of the photos that I have today. So save for the occasional rowdy child or disruptive group of teens, I have never had a problem with my figure photography in California. Most people see it as something that makes you very unique.

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

Like most, I run my photos through Lightroom and Photoshop during post-production. Early in my figure photography career, I relied heavily on my Photomanipulation editing to achieve interesting images.

Pretty much everything in this photo was composited in. I now prefer a more natural approach to photography.

After I had built some confidence in my abilities, I slowly transitioned to more practical and realistic means of attaining the photos that I wanted. Now I rarely composite outsourced material into my photos. Nearly everything I capture is on location.

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

It would be difficult to select any one photo as being my favorite, but the camping photo with the Yuru Camp girls definitely holds a special place in my heart. This photo simply feels warm and comfortable. It is perhaps one of the few photos that I have ever taken that actually presented the intended tone correctly in its entirety.

Otherwise, the most difficult photos I have ever taken would most definitely involve any time I had to use wire to suspend multiple items. As one might imagine, these are difficult due to the frustrating fact that Nendoroids have awful balance, bulbous heads, and oftentimes loose accessories.

Otherwise, the most difficult photos I have ever taken would most definitely involve any time I had to use wire to suspend multiple items. As one might imagine, these are difficult due to the frustrating fact that Nendoroids have awful balance, bulbous heads, and oftentimes loose accessories.

What cameras and lenses do you use?

I use a Sony A7III with a

• Zeiss 55mm f/1.8
• Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8
• Zeiss 16-35mm f/4.0

I have other cameras and lenses but these are the primary items.

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

It depends on what they want to do, what their budget is and how much effort they are willing to put in. Both photography and doll collecting are extremely expensive hobbies to become involved in and if you are not completely interested, it will likely be a waste of money to even try.

That being said, given the size of the most popular types of dolls (¼ and ⅓ scales), wide-angle lenses are necessary to capture your doll with its environment. Otherwise, a standard portrait lens will work just fine for close up shots. Any camera body will do so long as the lenses are compatible. There is no need to invest heavily in a camera that you might not end up using. That being said, taking photos of the dolls with a phone is just as good if the whole goal is simply to gauge one’s interest in the hobby further. Lastly, a good tripod and photo editing software are useful for any sort of photography and it also does not have to be too costly.

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

Truthfully, I am still too new to doll photography to definitively state a worthwhile achievement. I still have much to learn. That being said, I do believe that I have gotten “better” at taking doll photos. That may be an achievement in and of itself, but I will continue to strive to learn more.

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

If I told you that then it would not be a surprise. In reality, I will probably surprise myself with a project too. One day I will wake up and force myself to do something productive. We will see what happens then.

What other hobbies do you have besides doll photography?

I am an avid rock climber and love collecting Yu-Gi-Oh cards. I am a collector at heart in general. I collect cards, LEGO, art supplies, Nendos, figures, etc. I like designing clothes for the dolls and building the dioramas for the Nendos. I play games with friends on nearly every platform and try to manage the time to watch anime occasionally. I enjoy hiking and traveling and, strangely enough, driving.

What is your favourite anime and anime character?

My favorite anime is Clannad After Story. My favorite anime character is most likely Kyon from Haruhi Suzumiya. More specifically, his depiction in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (an isekai before it was cool) was one of the most compelling and relatable I have ever seen until now.

© Figubo 2021