Photorealism: bringing video game figures to life

Wisely taking the photography advice of never working with children or animals, Kyleigh Parker from Ohio – better known as Captaindangerous (opens in new tab) on Instagram – has perfected her art with her collection of gaming figures. From Pokémon to dragons, the freelance photographer takes her collectibles into the woods near her home and captures them in the outside world, delivering these beautifully charming images. We’re guessing there’s no Tyra Banks-style personas to deal with from her stars, either.

“Videogames have been a passion of mine since I was a little girl,” Parker explains when we ask when it all started. “I always loved the intricate worlds within the games and drew a lot of inspiration from the characters and how they interacted with their environment. I honestly started setting up little scenes with objects and toys I had collected when I was very little. I had always had a keen interest in photography, but unfortunately I didn’t have a camera to capture the scenes at the time. Years later, I started casually taking pictures of videogame figures I had collected outside with an iPhone. It wasn’t until my 20th birthday that I received a professional camera and was really able to fully explore the photography world.”

Unlike that time I took my Ezio figure to Rome, Kyleigh’s images aren’t just videogame equivalents of travelling gnome postcards. Each photograph manages to recreate the feeling of that character’s games. Whether it’s the loneliness of a Minecraft creeper and pig gazing out of a log on a rainy day or Link peacefully fishing with his net, every image has its own unique atmosphere. “I think something that makes my photos stand out is the attention to detail and thought I put into each shot I take,” says Parker.

“I spend hours setting up some of the shots I do. I pay close attention to the way I have the figure or item positioned and make sure I’m capturing the emotion and memory associated with that shot. I love bringing the games, characters and their worlds to life through the fond memories I have of that game or character. It’s something I take great care in doing. I love what I do and I love the fact that it brings so many smiles to people’s faces.”

The bold colours of the Mario and Zelda series are perfect contrasts to the natural world, and the majority of Kyleigh’s shots are Nintendo themed, with plenty of wild Pokémon appearing in the long grass(!). A collector of all kinds of gaming merchandise, the photographer has shots of Alduin from Skyrim as well as her favourite Pop Vinyl figures and characters from Final Fantasy.

“Although I grew up with Nintendo and it’s my favourite of the gaming companies, I love doing photos of Halo, Assassin’s Creed, Borderlands, etc when I can,” she explains. “Sadly they haven’t made nearly as many figures that are posable like Nintendo has, and I’m really hoping that will change. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that with the popularity of Nintendo collectibles, other companies will start to do the same.”

Asking the creator to pick her number one composition seems almost unfair… but I need to know. “Oh goodness, I have so many that I love,” she stalls. “I would have to say though that my favourite image so far is definitely my Snowpeak picture of Link that was inspired by the location in Twilight Princess. It’s a tie between that one and my Skyrim Dragon photo, for sure.”

With over 9,000 Instagram followers and each post garnering thousands of favourites, Parker has grown a community of dedicated fans – but she never expected to be so successful. “I created my page simply as a way to interact with other gamers and people who share the same passions,” she says.

“To my surprise I feel it has turned into something much more than that. I have made so many wonderful friends and created lasting relationships simply by sharing photos together. When people tell me a particular photo has made their day better, or that they have been inspired by the photo, it absolutely blows me away.”

Parker is now planning on selling some of her prints and loves that her images have inspired others to do more within the gaming community. “I want people to show their love for games and all things geeky or nerdy,” she says. “I want them to pursue that passion and love for it and turn it into something unique to themselves and share their creativity with the world. I’m so blessed and humbled by how encouraging people have been to me. It truly is an awesome community to be a part of!” Consider us all inspired, and you should be too. Got any figures of your own? Then get your camera out and start snapping! Now, where’s that Ezio figure gotten to…

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