From MEGO to McFarland: Behind the scenes with a Star Trek toy photographer

Star Trek toy photographer
Star Trek toy photographer

If you’ve ever seen the incredible shots of toys in packaging or on the internet, you may wonder who is behind those photos. It’s people like Canadian John DeQuadros, who has made a career of lighting, arranging and then photographing action figures in a multitude of environments. He’s worked with all the big toy companies — MEGO to McFarland, and always finds himself shooting something new and different. The life of a Star Trek toy photographer is never, ever dull. 

We asked John about his career and how he got started photographing toys. John is a huge Trekkie, and has shot many Trek figures in the past, and has a few secret projects in the pipeline too. 

How did you get started in photography?

Interestingly, it was a field that never really appealed to me initially. That said, I had this aunt who was a big time shutterbug, always with a camera in her hand. As such, photography was always a constant presence in my life. As I entered my teens however, I would dabble in it off and on just to see what all the fuss was about. 

Eventually, during my senior year of high school, I really took to photography. One weekend I purchased a new digital camera — yeah, this was way before smart phones were a thing — for a trip to the Toronto International Auto Show. 

The rest, you could say, is history. I couldn’t get over the crispness. The range of details you could capture in a single photograph. And, in just a few seconds! It really was a beautiful art form — and this new generation of digitally based snapshots had pulled me in full force!

One of DeQuadros’ amazing toy photos — this one of Jean-Luc Picard. Photo by John DeQuadros
One of DeQuadros’ amazing toy photos — this one of Jean-Luc Picard. Photo by John DeQuadros

What got you into photographing toys and figures?

I’ve been a toy collector for as long as I can remember! From Jurassic Park to Star Wars, I couldn’t get enough — and seeing how far this hobby has come in recent years is truly fascinating! 

For those who don’t know, I was born with cerebral palsy and partial blindness, conditions that have sadly worsened as I’ve aged. Due to this unique set of circumstances, I wasn’t out playing sports or riding a bike as a kid. No, toys and action figures were more my thing. 

So, to put it bluntly, toy photography just sort of fell into my lap and became a real outlet for me. Combining both passions really allowed me to cope with the pain and discomfort by allowing me to focus on something much more fun, inspiring and upbeat.

Tell us about some of the companies you’ve worked with.

Oh my goodness, that’s a rather long list! I’ve done a lot of [Star Trek] stuff alongside the team at Diamond Select Toys. At the end of 2018, I worked with them in promoting the newest Star Trek Select figures — Kelvin versions of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. 

In addition, I was also one of the first folks to get my hand on the San Diego Comic Con Golden Enterprise-C released at the show last year. I’ve worked closely with them in writing a series of articles on collectibles for the official Star Trek website and feel that they are easily one of the best groups of people I have had the privilege to work with! 

I’ve also gotten up close and personal with the Star Trek figures and collectibles from McFarlane Toys, Science Division, Eaglemoss, QMx and even the recently relaunched MEGO stuff — which is really cool! I also worked with CBS to help promote their new line-up of Star Trek television shows such as Discovery and Picard respectively.

A Kelvin Spock, as posed and photographed by John DeQuadros.
A Kelvin Spock, as posed and photographed by John DeQuadros.

On the non-Star Trek side of things, I’ve also done work with independent companies like Boss Fight Studio, Hiya Toys and Starlight Attic promoting lines like Bucky O’Hare and Aquanoids. I’ve also been fortunate enough to make connections with more well-known groups such as Bandai, Hasbro, Jakks Pacific, Mattel, NECA and DC Collectibles — where I helped promote such well known lines as the Star Wars Black Series, Marvel Legends,  S.H. MonsterArts, World Of Nintendo, the DC Designer Series, and Gundam Universe to name but a few. 

When was your “First Contact” with Star Trek?

That happened back in the winter of 1994. I was 9 years old, and we had just moved into this new house. There was a really bad snowstorm the first day we arrived, so it was going to take a day or two for the cable company to show up and wire us for TV. We essentially got one channel for that whole first weekend, and all it seemed to play were reruns of both The Original Series and The Next Generation. I loved it, and couldn’t get enough. From that point on, you could say that Star Trek would begin to hold a rather special place in my heart.

What is your favorite series, favorite character, and why?

That is an easy one! My favorite series will always and forever be The Next Generation! That was my Star Trek growing up, and it was the one that really spoke to me as a disabled person. No one was ever looked down upon on Picard’s ship because of some sort of handicap. 

A William Shatner-based toy, exploring a strange new world. Photo by John DeQuadros
A William Shatner-based toy, exploring a strange new world. Photo by John DeQuadros

Everyone was treated equal and given the respect that they deserved. I really liked that. It was a world that I really wanted to be a part of — especially when it came to just how much I was made fun of in school for my disabilities.

Now, in regard to my favorite character, that honor goes to William Riker. Firstly, not only did he sport one of the slickest beards in the known galaxy, but he was also a brave man who genuinely cared about those under his command. He was someone you could always look up to, someone who always seemed to know what to do when the situation called for it. 

Additionally, not only did he end up getting the girl, but he ended up moving to a beautiful planet, having a family with his one true love and got to spend his days making homemade pizza. I mean, when he wasn’t leading an entire fleet of ships to help get his lifelong pal out of a pretty serious jam. Not a bad life, if you ask me.

Tell us about some of your upcoming projects.

Well, I am currently writing another collectibles piece for the official Star Trek website that should be up early next month. In addition, I will soon be starting a new project that will deal with the return of the beloved MEGO brand, with a focus on their excellent Star Trek figures, of course.

On the non-Trek side of things, I am also getting ready to shoot some new NECA products that recently arrived and start setting up for some Muppets Select shots I’m hoping to get done by the end of the year. I am also getting ready to launch a new YouTube channel and begin filming my Top 10 Action Figures of 2020 list. And, that’s all within the span of just a few more weeks. I also have some stuff that just started falling into place for next year, but those are things I can’t really talk about right now!

You’ve written for Tell us how that happened.

Late in 2018, I was working with Diamond Select Toys in promoting their latest Star Trek Select figures — again, Kelvin versions of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. While having dinner with some friends, I happened to show one of them, a massive Star Trek fan, a few of the test shots I had taken earlier that day for an outlet I used to do some video work with. She commented on how great the shots looked and informed me over desert that the official Star Trek website was looking for writers. 

She thought I could write a few pieces about Star Trek toys and collectibles. The following day, she sent me the submission link for the site, and it sat in my files for almost a year and a half. 

I was more than a little apprehensive to send the official Star Trek website a pitch. Then, in April 2020, I threw caution to the wind and decided to bounce an article idea off my wife. They loved my initial pitch and, since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to publish two articles for the site, with a third one on the way!

DeQuadros and his daughter.

How do you like to spend time when there’s no camera in your hand?

Spending time with my wife and daughter is first and foremost when the camera is down. When I am not doing that, I’m watching movies, walking the dog, booting up some retro cartridge based video games, and reading anything and everything from DC Comics. I also enjoy playing cards with the in-laws, and probably consume more than my fair share of coffee on a daily basis. Oh, and I am always looking to add something cool and unique to the old toy collection as well.

Follow this amazing Star Trek toy photographer at his Twitter feed — John DeQuadros, aka Rip Rocket Photography.