What happens when a wee superhero, a toy dinosaur and an inspired photographer integrate online? We take a petite peek at an Instagram innovation and it’s quirky Kootenay origin. By Vince Hempsall
Normally, there’s something disconcerting about a grown man playing with dolls, but in the case of Blair Altman, his hobby is both educational and damn entertaining.
Altman is a slight, fair-skinned, 30-year-old bike mechanic in Nelson, British Columbia, who’s responsible for the “BatmanandFrank” Instagram account, which has been growing in popularity since its inception two years ago. Altman says he first created it to help hone his studio photography skills by setting up and shooting a 30-centimetre-tall Batman figurine and a toy velociraptor, which he named Frank.
“I did the multimedia program at Selkirk College and thought this would be a fun excuse to do new photos regularly, and play with different studio lighting techniques,” Altman says. “It’s way more fun than photographing fruit in a bowl….and maybe it’ll lead to more commercial work one day.”
Practicing for the big leagues makes sense, but why a dinosaur and the 1960s version of Batman played by Adam West? “I got Frank before I did any part of the series and it seemed like he needed a partner. I wanted something a bit weird but also generic,” he says. “Indiana Jones is too much of a character. And everyone’s doing stuff with Stormtroopers. Then I came across a 1960s Batman figurine and thought it was perfect because that original TV series was such a joke. And I hadn’t seen anyone doing anything with him.”
As it turns out the Batman doll, made by Hot Toys, was perfect for his needs because it has 30 points of articulation, allowing Altman to pose him in lots of different scenarios. It also came with 13 interchangeable hands in various positions, three different lower face sections to “capture Adam West’s classic facial expressions,” says the company, and accessories that include a Batarang, Bat-radio and, of all things, shark repellent spray.
So far Batman and Frank have been photographed on a beach, in a boat and on skis. For that one, Altman had to render a computer model of the skis and then print them using a 3D printer. However, his favourite shoot is Batman and Frank at a Japanese tea ceremony. That one took 30 hours to set up because he made everything from scratch, including the doors, table and cranes. He even invented his own smoke effects. The only thing he purchased was the tiny tea set. “I shop for all miniature things now,” he says. “I shop for Batman like he’s my kid.”
Okay, maybe there is something a tiny bit disconcerting after all.