Superhero Photographer Adam Jay Interview!

Just in time for the San Diego Comic Con, we've got an exclusive interview with one of the best cosplay photographers in the business, Adam Jay! You may know him best as the "Liquid Venom" photographer, but there's much more!

The art of cosplay has blown up over the past few years as convention culture has become more mainstream. There used to be just a handful of fans at the big cons dressed up as their favorite superheroes but now it seems like if you are just wearing jeans and a t-shirt that you’re the one doing something wrong! Den of Geek has caught up with a man who has made a name for himself in cosplay photography. In just a short period of time, Adam Jay’s breakout shots have begun to turn up all over the web and his loyal following continues to grow under his Superhero Photography & Creations label. Although living overseas in the UK, Adam granted us this exclusive peek into his world. His contagious enthusiasm for the hobby will definitely make you consider gearing up for the next convention…not as yourself but as your favorite superhero!Den of Geek: Before we get into cosplay and your amazing Superhero Photography site, how did you first become a shutterbug?Adam Jay: Ooooh…love that term: shutterbug! Well let’s say it wasn’t planned in the slightest and was purely by chance that it all happened. Are you sitting comfortably? Back in 2004 I started to teach dance at the World Famous Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden, London.  Not just any old dance mind you, it was the art of pole dancing. Yes, you heard me right, pole dancing! Men can do it! So much so I did it for the next 6 years teaching in Europe, the Caribbean & Australia. It was after my trip to Australia that I got this random email from a company called Image 1st in London asking if I wanted to rent out their studio in the evening to teach.At first I thought they were trying to sell me a shoot, so I was like “F&*k Off ” until I was talked into at least going to see the space and have a chat. Well it was a weird thing, as I went and ended up working there! At this stage I knew NOTHING about Photography. Zilch!It was a long time before I actually picked up a camera…around mid-2008 at least. I remember my first shoot that the boys had set up for me to practice. I was shitting it! I mean the girl was HOT and even though I have spent my whole adult life predominantly around women, this was different. It was my job to capture her, the character, the beauty and so on. I didn’t do too bad…not great, but not bad and it was a start. Over the next year I did more shoots, some were good, some were awful but I had my boy Doren help me out and tell me exactly what I was doing wrong and how to improve on it.In 2009 I mixed the pole dancing with the photography and started to carve out a name for myself in that genre amongst the dance industry. In late 2010 I stopped teaching pole dancing as I wanted to concentrate on the photography (plus my body was giving up on me!). I gained more experience in photography, mainly by trial and error and decided to go it alone starting in mid-2011. DoG: Cosplay has exploded in the last five years or so at every kind of convention all around the world. What drew you to focus your photography on superheroes?AJ: There is no boundary and that is what inspires me. With the dance photography there was only so much I could do so I needed something that would push and challenge my creative side. I arranged a shoot in December, 2011 in Miami with a few cosplayers and it was then that I decided and said to myself “if this goes well, I’ll give it a good crack for at least 6 months”. Needless to say the shoot went well!I didn’t read many comics when I was younger but I always watched the cartoons and movies so there has always been an interest there for me. I have learned a lot over this past year whilst shooting so many characters and meeting so many awesome people. DoG: I know from speaking to you many times as a fan how dedicated you are to each project you task yourself. Besides being a professional, what is the difference between your photos and the guy snapping hundreds of photos of scantily clad women and men in tights?AJ: Well firstly I want to say there are many talented and very creative cosplay photographers out there who churn out some amazing stuff. Each one has a particular style that will appeal to many and not to others, which goes without saying when it comes to photographers. The same goes for my style, some will like and some won’t. I’ve gone for a low-key vibe bringing in a lot of shadow work and simple lighting, sometimes only using one light. Now this does annoy some people as they want to be able to see the outfit in its detail, but to me the main reason I’m taking the shot is to tell a story. For example, Batman, Catwoman, etc…they are creeping out of the shadow, so the light falls on them from one side, like they are emerging out of the darkness. Again, some people feel my shots are too dark and others think it is believable for the character. Can’t win them all! DoG: Some of your pieces that I have seen like the female Silver Surfer, Liquid Venom, Sandman and Medieval Batman all seemed like tremendous undertakings. Tell us about the process that you go through from picking a subject or character and how long it takes from prep to final presentation?AJ: Well let’s start at Venom, because that’s how the majority of people found out about me isn’t it? This was an idea that Carlos Blanchard had. He came to me, we recruited a female cosplay model (Freddie Nova), and got painting. It was a cool shoot over about six hours at Image 1st in Miami, resulting in Freddie being taken over by the symbiote. We chose Freddie as we knew she was a double badass and could easily pull this character off, which from the final images is obvious! Let’s say we knew the pictures would be cool but didn’t realize how well they would do!Normally when shooting any given cosplayer they will have their own costume, apart from a few I have done such as Dr. Doom, Wonder Woman, The Comedian, Harley Quinn, and X-23.  I love it when someone can really immerse themselves into the character and not be afraid to really commit to the emotions. For me this is what it’s about, making it believable and as close to reality as we can make it. DoG: Your portfolio from the 2012 New York Comic Con is brilliant and showcases a variety of characters and you have developed a rep of people knowing “that is definitely an Adam Jay shot.” What do you think you are doing differently that is raising the bar for cosplay photographers?AJ: I would say they would recognize it due to the low-key style and the shadows. A lot of cosplay photographers go for the bright bubblegum colors and the fashion/glamour vibe whereas I prefer the darker/moodier, tell-a-story shot. NYCC was insane. So busy! It was great to meet so many awesome people with very cool costumes and great attitudes. I love it when you get people who are so passionate about what they do. With the majority of my shots the lighting is very simple so when it comes to editing in Photoshop there isn’t a great deal to do. I prefer to shoot on black as I want the image to look as though it can be a still from a film or a movie poster, as it’s easy to add text/graphics to it.DoG: What is it about Cosplay that you think has made it such a budding cultural phenomenon? Is it the wish fulfillment of being a superhero or people just wanting to change who they are if only for a day? AJ: I think there are a number of reasons why people join in with cosplay. You have those who make the costumes who treat it more as business but also a hobby. You then have those who will only dress up when they are going to an event such or even a photo shoot. Then you get the die-hards who will dress up as their heroes every hour of the day (or so it seems!). As there are more and more movies coming out that are centered on superheroes etc, more people are being introduced to cosplay. Also, I feel some people feel it is more acceptable to dress up now without the fear of being ridiculed!DoG: What do you have lined up for 2013? I know that you just started doing some awesome t-shirt designs for the exclusive tee sites but what photography projects are next?AJ: I’ll be back at NYCC in October. I may also have the chance to hit up a Brazilian convention in August! The beauty is that any project could happen at any time so who knows what else will happen?DoG: Finally, what is your dream project that you would love to shoot? What is the “White Whale” character that you hope to one day catch in an Adam Jay photo?AJ: Hmmm it’s a toughie, but one shoot I would love to do is from the DC Universe Online trailer, where all the heroes are dirty, beaten and angry. Add the Lex Luthor armor into the equation and I am very happy!To check out all things Adam Jay, check out his website us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!