White Boba Fett and Darth Vader by Brandon Acree (@skeletonastronaut)
In the rapidly growing world of toy photography, we first learned about Brandon Acree as a finalist in Hasbro’s very first #HASBROTOYPIC Fan Figure Photo Series that was officially featured at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con. One quick glance at Brandon’s Instagram page and we were glad that we did, and not just because his portfolio boasted a plethora of white Boba Fett images.
One trademark of Brandon’s work is his ability to successfully embrace a wide spectrum of moods, ranging from the dark and dramatic to the light-hearted and brilliantly comical. This range is also showcased in his photography’s style, with images that are heavy on atmosphere and realism while others have a whimsically bright retro feel to it. The subjects themselves further reinforce the theme of versatility, ranging from highly articulate Black Series collectibles on one end to classic old school Kenner action figures on the other.
Only on Brandon’s photo stream will you find Darth Maul locked in a deadly lightsaber duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi, only to be seen bargain-hunting for cereal together at the grocery store a few months later. Other favorites of ours include R2-D2 finding his long lost dad, Boba Fett deep in the depths of Cloud City, an Imperial Royal Guard admiring some other-worldly fabric, a menacing Kylo Ren ready for battle, and one we can only describe as Obi-Wan Kenobi adjusting his lightsaber. In short, there are too many to list.
We always start with the most important question: How long have you been a Star Wars fan?
My earliest Star Wars memory is being in the theater and watching the Speeder Bike chase in Return of the Jedi. I remember being fascinated by the sense of motion during those scenes.
What inspired you to get into toy photography?
I remember when I was younger my brother and I would set up army men and tanks in battle poses and then take photos of them. It was hard because you had to wait for the film to be developed to see if any of the shots turned out. Most of them didn’t. It wasn’t until I got a decent camera with a macro setting that I began to shoot something other than simple photos of my collection on a shelf. It all clicked when I discovered the work of Rather Childish . I remember dissecting his shots and trying to recreate them. In the process I learned a lot. Sometime in the latter part of 2012 I really began to put serious effort into it, and it’s all taken off from there and become my main hobby.
Let’s start with the featured photo first. It’s the first time we’ve seen a white-armored Boba Fett posed with Darth Vader. What’s the story?
The real story is that I got those two figures at the same time. My birthday is 4 days before Christmas, and those were gifts from my Mother. As for the idea and composition of the shot, I knew I wanted a red/orange glow to bounce off of Vader and Boba, but I needed a suitable backdrop. I eventually decided to use the 3.75″ scale Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter toy. It looks appropriately “technical”, and gives the appearance of some sort of nefarious meeting between two deadly characters on a Star Destroyer somewhere.
Early Ralph McQuarrie sketches inspired by mentions of Hoth eventually evolved into the Boba Fett we know. You have several photos of prototype Boba Fett in a Hoth setting, two of which are featured here. What else can you tell us about them?
Even though the White costume never appeared onscreen, it’s fully-realized and seems as legitimate as the final costume. It really feels like another set of armor he might own. A snowy setting just makes perfect sense as the location in which he might use it.
Who is your favorite Star Wars character to shoot? Is he/she also your favorite character overall?
I have a couple. Boba Fett of course. Han Solo is always fun to shoot, usually with Chewbacca. And the obscure Phantom Menace character Rum Sleg. He’s the mascot of my Instagram alter-ego “SkeletonAstronaut”.
Of course we must also point out that you were a finalist in Hasbro’s Star Wars Hasbro Toy Pic contest that was on display at the Hasbro booth at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con. Congratulations! Anything you’d like to share about your accomplishment?
It’s surreal. The whole thing is such an honor. Everyone selected as both a finalist for the main display, and for the “Hasbro preview breakfast” display is an incredibly talented photographer. It makes me proud to be in that group.
Lastly, what is the most important piece of advice you would offer to an aspiring toy photographer?
#1. Lighting and contrast. That’s the difference between a good photo and a great one. I use Adobe Photoshop to tweak my levels, but if you can’t do that, shoot in natural light outside. You can get some wonderful results just out in your yard depending on what time of day it is.
#2. Play with your camera settings. Once I stopped using the “AUTO” setting, a whole new world opened up.