Interview with Phi Phi O’ Hara

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February 26, 2015 Comments (0) Views: 21101 Cosplay, Featured, Industry, Nerds

Interview with Shaun Simpson

MichaelHamm-AshIf you’ve been following our Facebook, Twitter or our Tumblr, you’d know we’re huge fans of Shaun Simpson’s work. And judging by the amount of retweeblogshares they get, a lot of you guys are fans too. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Shaun has a great eye for composition and lighting and he has a deft hand at crafting sets to bring out the best in his models. Many a gay nerd’s heart has gone pitter patter at the site of a cute boy in amazing cosplay and you have to appreciate it when all the details are done right to make it all sing. We just had to get to know what makes his mind tick and some behind the scenes info about his work. How did you get into photography?
Shaun Simpson: Many moons ago in the very early 2000’s, my parents bought me a Kodak 1.3MP Digital Camera; the latest and greatest, at the time. I started off playing around learning the camera’s limited features, shooting whatever I could find, and started to get active in the online art scene and photography chat rooms. It was a pretty instant addiction, and connecting with other photographers around the world really fueled my interest; I’ve been shooting ever since.

GN: What is the favorite shoot that you’ve done?
SS: That’s a tough call! I think it’d have to be the shooting I did for the film Cloudburst. It was a ground-breaking look at same sex marriage; a geriatric lesbian road trip film starring Oscar winners Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker, directed by Thom Fitzgerald. I shot for several days on set, and my work ended up getting used on movie posters and in magazines around the world. I was really proud of the movie, and so happy to be a part of it.


GN: How much work goes into the average photoshoot?
SS: It all depends on the shoot, but cosplay shoots definitely require the most work. Usually involves researching the characters, planning the lighting, building sets/backgrounds in Photoshop, adding special effects, and minor costume tweaks. The shooting may only take a few hours, but post-production can take weeks. However, it is a ton of fun, and I learn a new tricks every time.

MattAucoin-Superman1GN: How do you feel about photo post processing?
SS: I love it! One of my favourite ways to spend an evening, I started learning Photoshop years before I learned anything about photography. The base technical work is starting to get fairly routine at this point; the creative work of building sets and special effects is where it gets interesting. I find I can do the technical work anytime, but the creative work I usually block everything out around me, and get into the Photoshop state of mind and just zone out.

GN: How do you decide what to shoot?
SS: Usually when I get an idea, I’ll ponder and refine it in my head for a few days, weeks, or even months before shooting it. Other times I’ll just get into the studio with a model and a basic concept, then start playing around lighting, wardrobe, and just freestyling it to see what we can come up with together.

If a friend or model approaches me with an idea that really intrigues or challenges me, I’m usually game. I love anything that makes me think outside the box, and forces me to push my boundaries; the constant learning is one of the reason I’ve been so enthralled by photography.

GN: Opinions on selfie sticks?
SS: Put the selfie stick away and hire a photographer! *grin* – Actually, I’m pretty much pro-anything that gets more people taking photos, capturing moments, and expressing themselves. I think if they’re used creatively, then awesome! If they’re just being used for bad duck-faced selfies, then I’ll take a pass. My folks actually got me one for Christmas, but I haven’t used it yet. hehe

GN: What is the one tip you could give to someone in order to take better pictures of themselves or look better in pictures?
SS: Don’t think about looking happy, or think about smiling, instead think about something that makes you happy, and the expression will be more authentic. Same goes for pretty much any mood/intention in a photograph; don’t think about looking sexy, that’s how duck face was invented; instead think about sex. The body has a ton of subconscious reactions that make the look more authentic.
Also, the small sensors in phone cameras are horrible in low-light; a brighter room, or an outdoor shot before sunset, will give you a more flattering photograph.

GN: What is the nerdiest photoshoot that you’ve done?
SS: Probably my first cosplay shoot with cosplaying prodigy Nathan DeLuca; it was essentially several hours of cosplay mixed with a lot of geek talk and discussion about what is, or isn’t, canonical. It definitely got me hooked on cosplay shoots.


GN: Your work features a lot of gay cosplayers. Do you consider yourself to be a nerd?
SS: Some people are surprised to find out that only a few of the models and cosplayers I’ve photographed identify as gay. I’ll leave up to your imagination to decide which ones are or aren’t. hehe

Geek is a title I’ve proudly held since elementary school; besides photography, I’ve worked in the computer industry for about two decades. I’m a huge ST:TNG fan; that’s where my geek roots thrive, but generally speaking, I’m a pretty voracious gormandizer of all things geek.

Finn The Human - 015-SGN: What kind of nerdy interests do you have?
SS: That list is near endless! Pretty much anything sci-fi/superhero/mutant/fantasy will have me readily hooked. I’m not a harsh critic, so it’s pretty easy for me to get drawn into a story.

Favourite shows: Star Trek, Avatar: The Last Airbender (and Legend of Korra), Full Metal Alchemist, TMNT, Attack on Titan, Death Note, anything Marvel or DC, BTVS/Angel, Adventure Time, Studio Ghibli, and the list goes on and on…

GN: What kind of Bender would you be in the Avatar world?
SS: I’d have to say Waterbender! I’ve always had a strong affinity with the ocean, and being around the water. The Moon and Ocean Spirits took the form of koi fish, and my partner and I to have 5 fish tanks, so it seems like a perfect match! Plus, a bit of Bloodbending could really help models get into the right position during photoshoots too. *evil grin*

GN: What is the absolute first and last picture that you have stored/taken on your phone?
SS: My phone is a few years old, and the camera on it is kinda lame, so I don’t use it often these days. However, on the phone right now, the first shot was a selfie I took in my studio while waiting for a client to show-up (they didn’t show up); the last shot was a selfie with my partner James on our way out to dinner on New Year’s Eve.

GN: If you could have a superhero power involving a camera, what would it be?
SS: Oooooh, good twist on the question! A camera that would make the photographer invisible would definitely help me get over my some of my own introverted shyness during some shoots. However, I think a magical camera that would instantly make people relax and drop inhibitions would be amazing; a power that could be very dangerous in the wrong hands, but it could help create some amazingly authentic and beautiful results when used respectfully!

GN: There are 6 of you in a haunted house. 1 of you goes missing. What do you do?
SS: Start making ghost noises to disorientate everyone long enough to hide the ‘missing’ body. *innocent smile*

If you find him charming and like his work as much as we do, go check him out at his website, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram



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