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MANILA, Philippines - Iron Man and War Machine strode around National Book Store Greenhills like they’d start duelling at the drop of a cog.
You’d probably mistake it as a rehearsal for alternates for an upcoming Marvel movie, but this is the book launch of Jason Tablante’s aptly titled “Geekology 101.”
This book answers the question: What do celebrities like Daiana Menezes, Bubbles Paraiso, Jinri Park and Sollen Heussaff have in common with cosplay queen Alodia Gosiengfiao?
The answer: They’ve all posed as characters for Tablante’s sumptuously designed photographs that raise the bar for local cosplay photography.
In fact, sometimes — as in the case of Gosiengfiao as White Phoenix of the Crown — he rips the bar right off and flings it into the stratosphere to burn on the psychic flames of the superhero’s outspread wings.
His penchant for perfection becomes our delight. They look so good they transcend fandom photography, nudging into the realm of fine art prints.
Cosplay, or costume play, is a pop culture phenomenon that has enabled people to behold heroes, villains and everything in between, stepping off the page and into flesh. For geeks, cosplay is the closest thing they’ll get to inhabiting a favorite characters’ skin.
“The characters we bring to life are fantastic to begin with,” wrote Tablante in the book’s introduction. “They’ve got superpowers, paranormal abilities and things that just don’t exist in everyday life.
"I want to shoot people beyond the costumes. I want people to believe, for a moment, that superheroes can be real.”
Tablante, an upbeat and down to earth guy who has a perennial college student aura about him, describes himself as an uber geek. The first comic he ever bought was an issue of Marvel’s “Uncanny X-Men” way back when he was still grade school, and he hasn’t looked back since.
He’s also considered one of the country’s top commercial photographers, having honed his craft for almost 15 years now. Though he confesses he was a frustrated illustrator, he has no doubt come far from his early days tinkering around his cousin’s dark room.
One of his specialities is photographing women in various states of undress. Pick up a copy of one of the many local men’s magazines and, chances are, Tablante has shot one of the pretty ladies there.
Or, better yet, check out the gravure photo book ”The Jinri Park Experience” that Tablante is credited as having shot in full. Should come as little surprise; he does cite American erotic and porngoraphic lens woman Suze Randall as one of his influences alongside David LaChapelle.
Photographing cosplay remains close to his heart though, and it has enabled Tablante to interlace his profession and his passion into a single endeavor. Often, the images come off so well that his models become geek favorites.
Take Jinri Park, who donned the costume of the X-Men’s psychic ninja Psylocke. Her portrayal of the iconic character not only turned out amazing, it also brought her to the attention of European geeks who eventually flew her to Italy for a convention there last year.
“I got to go to Rome and Milan!” exclaimed Park. “I had to wear the skimpy costume in front of Europeans. They were like `Oooh!’ and looking at my butt.” She laughed. “Jay got me interested in a lot of geeky things, including cosplay. I’m very thankful because he opened a new market for me.”
Cover girl Alodia Gosiengfiao echoes Park’s sentiment, declaring that Tablante’s compilation is a giant step forward in their efforts to have cosplay gain wider recognition.
“This is our first `official’ Pinoy cosplay book,” said the cosplay pioneer, recounting how it was an uphill battle in the early days for her and her friends.
“When we started doing cosplay photography, we didn’t know that we would be compiling a book. We just did it out of the love for what we do.”
The book itself is a study in how an overload of attention to detail leads to photographic genius. And what a top notch team of production designers, stylists, make-up artists, illustrators, costumers and illustrators can achieve when working in perfectly-tuned concert.
The Mad Hatter, Alice and the Cheshire Cat play at cards while gulping down beer in the “Tea After Party” tableau; Bianca King investigates a murder scene as the local supernatural detective from the local comics “Trese,” or casts a spell as DC Comics’ Zatanna; Brazilian model Daiana Menezes lounges amid a sanctuary to the dark arts as the Black Queen; Gosiengfiao pulls off Capcom’s Morrigan and anime characters Amaha Masane and Rei Anayami with her usual aplomb.
One of the book’s highlights are the America-based cosplayers and costume designers that Tablante shot last year when he and his crew flew to the New York Comic-Con.
“It was luck more than anything that I was able to get in touch with the NY cosplayers,” said Tablante. “Going there and collaborating with [them] was a revelation. They did not disappoint. Their costumes were top notch. Movie-worthy. Natuwa talaga ako working with them!”
Tablante shot over 10 costumes for 9 hours in NY with Yaya Han, Riki Lecotey, Megan Marie and Marie Claude Bourbonnais. Most of them were Marvel characters like Dazzler, Cat Woman, Black Cat and Wasp.
“Believe it or not I am going back to some Japanese characters,” he said about his upcoming cosplay shoots. “Nag-shoot ako ng Voltes V for fun! I’ll be collaborating with a CG team and we’ll be producing a Camp Big Falcon and Lander V and Jamie Robinson.”
Tablante is also working with Dingdong Dantes for a planned Cyclops shoot.
Also in the works are more gravure foto books (like the Jinri Park Experience 2), and continuing with more cosplay images that can hopefully be brought to the ultimate geek powwow that is the San Diego Comic Con. - Rappler.com
“Geekology 101” is available at all National Book Store outlets at Php 345. All proceeds will go to Operation Smile.
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