Behind the Scenes with Toy Photographer, Mitchel Wu
Q: What was it that got you interested in action figure photography?
A: A lot of it is driven by nostalgia. It is an amazing way to revisit the movies, tv shows and comic books I enjoyed growing up - like Star Wars, Marvel superheroes and G.I. Joe to name just a few. The other thing I love about toy photography is that it's the perfect vehicle for action-packed storytelling. I used to photograph portraits and weddings, and the most action I'd get from my clients was maybe a romantic stroll down the beach. Can that really compare to photographing Yoda battling a group of stormtroopers (while reading a book), or Roadblock (from G.I. Joe) rescuing Duke amid a barrage of real explosions?
Q: You recently photographed the Tully’s Terrible Night action figure 2-pack from the Ghostbusters Plasma series. Can you give our readers some details about your approach to that project?
A: I really wanted to tell a fun story between Tully and the Terror Dog, one that no one had probably seen before. A large part of what drives my stories is showing well-known characters in different, unexpected ways. So instead of showing the Terror Dog in its usual menacing manner, I decided to focus on the "dog" part of him. And what dog doesn't want to play and jump for a doggy treat?
Q: As an artist, what are some of the things you draw inspiration from?
A: I'm inspired by real life (including the ridiculous and unbelievable), nostalgia, pop culture, music and art. I'm also inspired by the incredible work being done by my fellow toy photographers. As an artist you quickly understand that it's impossible to be the best, but it's entirely possible to be the best at what you do.
Q: In your opinion, what is the most important element of a great action figure photograph?
A: Without a doubt, storytelling. A technically excellent image without a story is ultimately forgettable. But an image that tells a fun or amazing story is destined to be impactful and memorable. My goal for my own images is to grab the viewer's attention through a fun, dynamic image, and then draw them into the world I created through the story I'm telling. It's the toy photography version of the one-two punch!
Q: Any advice for aspiring action figure photographers? What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you when you started out?
A: My advice is to buy lots and lots of toys! One of the great things about being an adult is you don't have to ask your Mom or Dad if you can get the latest, greatest action figure! I'm only half joking, because new toys inspire new ideas and help stoke that excitement to create. My more conventional answer to this question, though, is to work on your storytelling as much as your technique. Both are really equal components to amazing toy photography.