For several years now, Claude Estèbe, specialist in Japanese visual culture, has undertaken a personal photographic research using cheap toys as his models exploring the notion of the original and its copy. He has gathered a collection of thousands of “Pachimons”, colloquial Japanese term for cheap and naive copies of toys derived from popular B movies and cartoons, such as Godzilla or Gundam. The abundance of these cheap replicas collected all over South East Asia reveals the great impact of Japanese subculture that reaches even the most remote areas of Asia.
These figures are not only cloned. They give birth to new characters, new aesthetics. For instance from Ultraman or Kamen Rider, local series were created in Thailand. They introduced new heroes and toys, sometimes far remote from the originals. As a kind of tribute vice pays to virtue, the copy sometimes encapsulates the spirit of an era even more vividly than the real. Cut from their original purpose of incarnating heroes from the TV screen, these debased replicas become the essence of their originals.
By enhancing the defects and imperfections, playing with special lightings, close ups, Claude Estèbe extracts the humanity of these mass produced toys. Set out of their context these striking figures become anonymous objects, resembling modern tribal gods or mythological beasts of the future.