The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

The Great Moniaive Comic Con Con

Moniaive Comic Festival in early June has become a regular feature in my photography calendar. This year was my 3rd time collaborating at the event with Ralph Yates-Lee from Basement 20 Hair Salon in Dumfries - photographing models created to look like they could have stepped out of the pages of a comic-book or graphic novel (see Moniaive Manga and Moniaive Comic Festival's New Model Army).

This year, however, everything moved up a level, when legendary comic-book writer, Alan Grant, wrote a 16-page comic-book based on the characters Ralph and his team created.

Ralph's idea was to have futuristic androids with fancy hairstyles involved in the festival, and Alan wrote a script where they come to the Moniaive and start kidnapping guest writers and authors to take them to a rival comic festival, only to be stopped at the last moment by "them pesky kids."

The idea was to then have different pages and panels drawn by different artists. Some were created by well known names in the comic industry, some by local primary school children, and some by visitors to the festival who could chose a panel to illustrate. And 4 panels and the cover image were to be created by me with the camera. This mass of different artwork and styles were then edited, had speech bubbles added and compiled into “The Great Moniaive Comic Con Con” by festival organiser, Sue Grant (whose husband is Alan).

Cover image

Unlike the previous couple of years where I just turned up on the day to do the photography, this time we had to do a fair amount in advance. 6 weeks earlier we gathered at Basement 20 where Ralph and stylist Trae Corbett, set about creating the hairstyles on our 4 models – Grace, Conor, Holly and Jess (who was also the make-up artist). Trae also styled the clothing for them all, and I did a set of reference photos that were then sent out to some of the comic-book artists in advance, so they would know what to base their drawings on.

Reference photos

During the festival, Ralph, Trae and Jess set up early to do the hair and makeup and by late morning the models were ready for me to start photographing them for the comic-book panels.

In the section of the story I was covering, the 4 androids head for the Craigdarroch Hotel to find "Big" Jim Stewart. When they invite him to step outside, he stands up and towers over them. At that point they are so intimidated they decide to leave him and find other artists and writers instead.

We did the indoor shots first, but it took a fair bit of trial and error to get the compositions I wanted. The bar wasn't that big, so I needed a wide-angle lens to be able to fit everyone into the shots. However, that meant I ran the risk of my lights creeping into the images too.

Once I felt happy I'd got the photos I needed, we shifted outside to do external shot of the androids heading for the pub. To add an extra layer of fun, we staged Ralph getting thrown out of the side door by the landlord, Tim.

Over the following week when I was editing the images, I had to work out how to create an effect so they had more of an illustrative look to them, while still obviously being photographs – and I had to figure out how to lay them all out across the page so the story flowed, with enough room for Sue to add the speech bubbles

Double-page spread for the comic

The final task was to create a cover image. In an earlier part of the story, a couple of the androids arrive on a motorbike, so Sue had managed to arrange one for us, while Ralph had his 2nd cameo role, but this time with a sack over his head.

The ambient light was pretty dull as it was just a grey, overcast day. So I set up an off-camera flash with an orange gel behind the models – which is what is casting the shadows - and later on Photoshopped in the sunset sky behind them.

With all the photos done, we were about to head to the pub for a bite to eat when Sue asked if we could add Dr Who and a Dalek into the image for a possible publicity photo for next year's festival.

Nigel does a really good David Tennant era Dr Who impersonation, and he has a remote control Dalek, which he would send up to groups of children, calling out "Exterminate! Exterminate!"

Photographing 4 androids, a motorbike, a guy in a sack, Dr Who and a Dalek all together in the centre of a small village located in the Galloway Hills in SW Scotland – seemed an ideal way to end a Sunday afternoon.

Dr Who and The Androids

As in previous years I dragged my friend Allan Wright along to get some footage of the photo sessions and have put together a wee (lm 35s) behind-the-scenes video for you, which gives quite a good flavour of the day:

For the next few weeks Basement 20 are displaying are displaying some of the photos in the window of the salon, and some of the original artwork for the comic inside. If you're in Dumfries and get the chance, do pop by and take a look.

They also have a handful of the comic for sale for a mere £4, so get your copy before they're all gone.

Some of the team - left to right:
Ralph, Trae, Jess, Grace, me


Viji said...

When passion becomes your profession. What more is needed. Amongst lakhs of photographers only few get to shine. Your commitment, passion is great to witness. Loved the photographs and kudos to the stylists and models as well.

Kim Ayres said...

Many thanks for your kind words, Viji - they are warmly appreciated :)

Pat said...

Very interesting. Being nosey I would have liked to hear the conversation. As usual the photography is great and the top cover superb. Great collaboration. Please don't shave your head again.

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks Pat :)
I've never actually shaved my head (although it was much shorter than usual at the shoot I did in Moniaive 2 years ago) - but with each new video I notice my bald patch growing ever larger...

Yaya Snaps said...

Lots of work but great fun too...enjoyed the video of the photo shoot. How could I not love a photo with a Dalek in it and your very own Dr. Who!?

Kim Ayres said...

Theanne - he was a great Dr Who, and the Dalek really added to the fun of the day :)

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