Interview: fsdlingr

I also tend to come up with series of themes that usually take a long time to complete. In 2019, I conceived and basically completed the first phase of the series that combines dolls with famous city landmarks, which I realised in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Shenzhen…

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 have been collecting 1:3 dolls since 2017, so it has only been four years. I like the characters in the Vocaloid series therefore it is no surprise that my first doll was the famous Vocaloid twin character in the Dollfie Dream series, Kagame Lin. I mainly focus on the Dollfie Dream series.

I like to record beautiful natural sceneries and enjoy the work created by nature. At the same time, being influenced by other doll photographers, I have started bringing my dolls outdoors and combining landscape photography with them. I actually started collecting Nendoroids and scale figures and taking pictures of them even before collecting dolls.

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

The combination of dolls and natural/artificial landscapes always corresponds to one of the biggest themes: the relationship between man and nature/environment, which is what I always aim to achieve. For a single scene, my planning and realisation process of a photo shoot is similar to traditional landscape photography. That means I start with scene selection → theme determination → season, weather and time → simulation of the composition → field exploration → the actual shooting session.

I also tend to come up with series of themes that usually take a long time to complete. In 2019, I conceived and basically completed the first phase of the series that combines dolls with famous city landmarks, which I realised in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Shenzhen.

The most famous landmark in Shanghai: The sunrise of Waitan

How is collecting dolls and taking photos of them as a hobby perceived in China?

In China, doll collection is a fast-growing niche hobby. China has a huge market in which a large number of doll manufacturers and producers participate in doll carnivals that are held throughout the country every year. Their products are of superb quality and come with a huge variety. Doll photography is a very important part of doll collection behavior in China as high-quality doll photos will be recognized by doll collectors. In general, doll photography is seen as more of a creative performance. My dolls are often photographed by other photography enthusiasts when I go out to do doll photography.

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

Since accessing knowledge became very easy in today’s world, landscape photography, once seemingly mysterious, has seemed to be almost transparent lately. The quality of photos depends on the degree of personal practice and aesthetic level. Almost all of my pre- and post-photographic techniques were acquired on the Internet and used in actual photography.

For the doll shooting-related technique, the most important thing is to ensure that the doll looks the same as a real person, which is something I learned from other experienced photographers and thanks to which I gradually developed my own style of shooting.

What is the favourite doll photo you have ever taken and which was the most challenging one?

I prefer to pursue innovative photos and pictures that would surprise others, so in order to achieve this goal, I always challenge my limit.

I tried to complete a series of shots in a Teamlab, a very dim environment with only one camera and one doll without any assistive equipment. I became the first person to try and complete Teamlab doll-related photography. This is a very big challenge for both the pre- and post-photography stages.

Last year, my teammates and I set off with dolls from the 4,000-meter plateau in Aden, Sichuan Province, hiked to the top of a mountain at an altitude of 4,500 meters in three hours, and our physical strength and on-site planning capabilities were challenged. When we climbed to the top of the mountain, it began to snow in the distance, so we filmed a special scene under strong wind and snow.

What is your favourite season for taking photos?

China is a country with various climatic and topographical conditions. I do not have any particular preference since every season and every place has a corresponding view worth shooting. There is always interesting scenery waiting for you to record in every season.

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

I had been using a Nikon D750 camera for a long time before I switched to Sony A7R3 last year, which was better and lighter, making it ideal for doll shoots. The current lenses I am using most of the time are Sony 16-35 F4 and 24-105 F4, but I occasionally shoot with a 20 F1.8 G as well.

An example of using a 70-focal segment

On the focal section of shooting a doll, I generally use from 16mm to 90mm depending on the actual shot. Many people think that a wide-angle should be used in landscape portraits, which is a common misconception. In doll photography, even with a medium telephoto segment, you can still create a big view.

What would you recommend to someone who is considering starting to collect dolls and take photos of them? What camera and equipment would you recommend starting with?

Since doll-shooting falls within the category of photography, it is recommended that while learning doll photography, it is better to find out more about photography itself. As I said before, the advent of the Internet is making it easier and easier to acquire photographic knowledge, and it is time to learn slowly. Also, you do not want to be too utilitarian, after all, it is just a hobby. As for equipment selection, I do not focus so much on the equipment. In my own experience, my advice is to get an entry-level full-frame SLR/micro-single, which allows a more flexible selection of lenses. My own personal experience tells me that the fastest stage I have ever seen in photography was when I was still using the entry-level full-frame D750, not after I replaced it with the Sony a7r3.

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

I would say my biggest achievement would be being part of Figubo and being interviewed here! Another achievement was being recognized by Thomas Chu, the champion of the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest in 2019 on Weibo, after posting my doll photos on Weibo. I am happy to be recognized by the photographers I admire.

I was followed by the world top photographer after publishing the landscape series on social media in 2019

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

There is an ongoing project, on which I am collaborating with a talented tailor of doll costumes in China. By combining dolls dressed in the traditional costumes of China’s ethnic minorities with the natural and human landscapes of the region, we are trying to showcase the amazing and diverse customs and cultures of China. We have been carefully examining the cultural customs of each ethnic group and recreating the clothes of the dolls to the greatest extent possible, and traveling to the places where these ethnic groups gather to photograph the dolls to reflect the local culture and customs. Since there are 55 ethnic groups in China, it is almost impossible for the two of us to make all the clothes and photograph the dolls in them. We have only started with a few of the most well-known Chinese ethnic groups and will have completed 5-10 doll shoots in the next two to three years. I believe that these will be the most worthwhile on my journey.

At present, we have completed the production of one of the branches of the Tibetans in China, Jiajun Tibetan doll costumes, and filmed in Sichuan Tibetan regions Aba and Ganzi, where most Jiajun Tibetans live.

What other hobbies do you have besides doll photography?

Traveling and taking photos are two of my greatest hobbies. In addition, I have learned how to play the drum and I have been practicing it for more than a year.

What is your favourite anime and anime character?

My favourite anime is the Persona series. As for my favourite anime character, I would pick two: Yu Narukami from Persona 4 and Ren Amamiya from Persona 5.

© Figubo 2021