I found JC Milone’s toy photography online and basically lost my mind. Not only was I eager to share his work on the Toy Wizards’ platform (which Joe politely allowed me to do), but I wanted to know more about the person creating some of these amazing moments, dynamically frozen in time, created using toys (my favorite things).
I reached out to JC Milone for a Toy Wizards exclusive interview, and I was so very stoked when he said yes!
Hi Joe! Thank you so much for giving Toy Wizards this interview. I’m very excited for the opportunity to chat with you. Like many people out there, I discovered your work via Instagram. I think what’s unique about you is that not only are you a very skilled photographer who clearly loves toys, but your toy photography account has been going since at least 2014! Would you please introduce yourself to Toy Wizards readers and provide us with your personal and photography background? (or as much as you want to share).
Thank you Loryn, I really appreciate you giving me this opportunity to connect with your readers. My name is Joe Milone. I’m a native New Yorker but have called Florida my home for the last decade. I’ve always been interested in photography, but it wasn’t until I started my Instagram account in March of 2013 that I really pursued it. I started by shooting with my cell phone, and by the next year I received my first DSLR as a Birthday gift from my wife. I felt like that was the point where I really started getting more serious with my hobby.
What is your history with toy collecting? What are some of your favorite franchises and toys within those genres?
I have been collecting for a very long time, ever since I received my first He-Man figure for my third birthday. I really can’t remember a point in my life where I wasn’t collecting some line or another. It started with Masters of the Universe, then GI Joe, Transformers, and Thundercats came around. Then the late 80s brought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Toy Biz Batman/DC Super Heroes line, which segued into Toy Biz’s Marvel line. And really, as an adult collector, it’s still mostly the same franchises – Masters of the Universe Classics, Marvel Legends and DC Universe Classics are probably my current favorite lines.
What’s your favorite toy in your collection, and what is your most expensive (not counting your camera!)
Sentimentally, my favorite figure would probably be the He-Man figure I got for my 3rd Birthday. I have a lot of other favorite figures that seem to jockey for the top spot, but if I had to pick just one, I’d say it’s my Hot Toys Jack Nicholson Joker. My most expensive toy would probably be the Masters of the Universe Classics Castle Grayskull.
It’s clear from the pictures you take that you really love these toys that you’re photographing. There’s an enjoyment and respect for them that shines through. So, why toys as subjects and what external factors influence the sort of cinematic and dynamic shots you stage? Is there anything tongue-in-cheek or ironic happening in your photos, or is this just the staging you feel these pieces deserve?
Like, I said earlier, I’ve always loved and collected toys, and my Toy Photography first really started as a way to showcase my collection. The more I did it, the more elaborate it became. I guess it really allows me to “play” with my toys and have fun with them. As far as influence, movies , TV and the source material (comics, cartoons, etc) always help to inspire. Other times, I’ll be driving and an idea might pop into my head, or I might just take a few figures out and see what I come up with. I definitely try to infuse some humor when I can, whether it’s in the shot itself or via the caption. In general though, if it’s not a portrait shot, I’m always trying to tell a story with my photos, and I hope that comes across.
What came first, the professional photography career, or did taking pictures of toys open new doors for you?
I certainly don’t consider myself a professional by any means, but shooting toys has definitely given me opportunities to work with companies like Mattel, Beast Kingdom, Asmus Toys, and Extreme sets amongst others.
What are your top three favorite pictures you’ve taken (toy or otherwise) and why?
I’ve taken almost 3000 photos for my Instagram, so my favorites change from time to time. I’ll share a few recent favorites.
1) Captain Marvel (Shazam) and Mary Marvel capture Mr. Mind. The Original Captain Marvel (I refuse to call him anything else) was always a very special character to me. When the movie came out earlier this year, I joined some other artists, and we did a week long tribute to him. This shot was my favorite of the bunch. I tried to make it look like an Alex Ross painting come to life, and I feel like I succeeded to an extent.
2) He-Man and the Green Goddess. Like I mentioned earlier, He-Man was my gateway to toy collecting. Each figure came with a mini comic, and the earliest ones were like a mini storybook. When I got my first He-Man figure, the comic it came with was called “He-Man and the Power Sword”. I read that comic so many times it fell apart. The image of the Goddess giving the savage He-Man his cache of weapons always stuck out in my mind, and I finally was able to shoot a tribute to an early childhood memory.
3) Supergirl and Streaky. Action shots are a lot of fun, but sometimes I like to shoot slice of life shots. This photo combines two of my favorite things… Superheroes and cats.
What changes have you seen in the toy community since the earlier days of your toy photography on Instagram?
I think that the biggest change that I’ve seen since I started has been how large the community has gotten. Not only has it gotten bigger, but the amount of talent out there is just incredible.
What changes have you seen in the actual toys that are coming out?
Articulation, detail, and cost are the biggest things I can think of. Also, Hasbro is pumping out a bank account punishing amount of Marvel Legends these days…lol
Stepping away from toy photography for a moment, what are some hobbies and interests you have that people following you for the toys may not expect?
I am a huge baseball fan- an avid New York Yankees supporter. And I also love music – Huge fan of Punk Rock. My wife and I attend many concerts each year. I try to share my concert experiences through my Instagram stories. We have two cats that also provide us with hours of entertainment.
Where can Toy Wizards readers follow you on social media, and what do you have coming up in the pipeline for us to look forward to?
As of right now, the only place to find my work is on my Instagram page @jcmilone. As for the future, well, I always try to keep it random and mix up my content. SO I’ll keep shooting, and you guys will have to tune in to see what I post next!