What is the connection between Photography and Cosplay? First off, what is Cosplay? Cosplay is two words combined into one word, “Costume” and “Play”. It is very similar to the Western term “Masquerade” where people dress up for an event, taking on a role of someone else. Usually in western society at Masquerades they wear historical like costumes from fairy tales. However, Cosplayer’s in Japan dress as their favourite characters from anime, manga or video games. In Japan, Cosplayers also insist that you play as the character you are dressed as. As far as they are concerned, while you are dressed up in that costume, you are that character. While over here in North America and Europe it is more open, and you don’t need to act like that character all the time, just when getting your pictures taken or acting out skits.
And photography is the art of forever preserving an image. It has many forms and many different branches that it may take. A few examples of this are Fashion Photography, Still Life, Artist n***s and Surreal Photography. Each is a style all of its own, and each of it can tell a different story. Fashion photography is used in glamour magazines, billboards and any other form of advertising. It is used to help sell a product, perfume, or clothing. Still Life is a style of photo that tells a story of an image frozen in time. A doll, flowers, fruit laid out are all examples of this. Artist n***s are not just naked people, but it is like a study of the human body, preserved in the form of a photograph. And finally surreal photography is just like surreal paintings, usually photo manipulation techniques to create a dream like image using real photos. The photography I will be talking about later on in this paper is a mix between fashion and portrait photography, while it also can be a mix in with a few other styles, but mainly these too.
First off, where did Cosplay first appear? The first recorded Cosplayer was at the Comic Market in Tokyo, Japan, sometime in 1978. It was a big success and she was welcomed by the people from the Comic Market. By the 1980’s however there were so many Cosplayers going to the Comic Market; the market owners put them into their own space with changing rooms to keep from because they weren’t buying anything and were considered annoying. The Cosplayers invited more and more people to the events, however, and soon people began to go solely to be seen and would often begin to model for people coming to take their pictures. They would pose, and act as if they were that character. Soon the conventions were overrun with people joining in with these new and adventurous events. Many people believe that Cosplay is more welcome over in Japan, rather than in the West. This is not the case however. In Japan it is frowned upon, even among fans of anime, manga and video games. It is seen as odd and silly.
Here in the west Cosplay started in the 1980’s, just as the anime fandom was hitting North America when we got such anime’s as Astro Boy and Speed Racer. Since then Cosplay has evolved. It isn’t limited to just anime, manga and video games. In fact it has grown to live action television shows, books and even music groups, some of which had their own unique styles. And it has even become beyond that, to street fashion cosplay. This is also known as Harajuku. Harajuku is a place in Japan where fashion on the streets is common. The style’s go beyond just common fashion. They are described as outrageous and extraordinary. Young Japanese men dress in a Rock-a-billy style, while young women dress with large, colourful hairpins, bags and layers upon layers of clothing bright in all colors.
Cosplay isn’t just a hobby; it is an obsession for some. And it is a hobby that involves a lot of multi-talents. A Cosplayer needs to be able to sew, be talented with applying the perfect make-up, styling their own wigs, and know how to make props such as weapons, custom jewellery, animal ears or wings. Even when an amateur Cosplayer is done their Cosplay it is a masterpiece, because a good Cosplayer knows that as long as the work went into a costume is it worth a glance. This however does not guarantee a lot of people will take their pictures. Obviously the more professional made costumes will have a lot more photos taken then an amateur’s costume, even if it is well put together. The best way to get involved in pictures is to be involved in photo shoots. Not all of them are professional, but at conventions they usually are at least one professional taking photo’s. When involved in photo shoots the Cosplayers always take them together in group shots, and sometimes they take turns in solo shots. Usually when this is done they are posted in blogs, websites and a Cosplayer can get some notice.
At these present day conventions it is not just men, as many people picture conventions to be like. In some cases the girls outnumber the men. While in the 1980’s there were an equal amount of either sex involved. At a convention is 2004 of those who registered for the dressing rooms, 80% of the people who used them were in fact female. Cosplay is not just a female oriented hobby; in fact, males are heavily involved as well. Even more curious is that cross-dressing is very accepted among Cosplayers. You don’t have to be homosexual or a transsexual to do this. In fact some cross-dress for the humour or the challenge of doing the opposite sex. It is common for these cross-dressers to flirt with people who are Cosplaying a love interest of the character said Cosplayer is dressed as, even if they are of the same sex. It isn’t considered gay, or misleading, but rather a play at the character. This is especially normal when photos are being taken. The Cosplayers play as the characters and so a usually awkward photo position is not awkward anymore.
Cosplayers in action at conventions have been described as ‘More together, more hip and more social then regular nerds.’ Now while Cosplayers realize they are nerdy they over all are just like other nerds. They have the same interests and are into the same stuff, but they are able to take other interests and play it onto their geekiness. This isn’t just true for anime fans, but other attendees at other genre conventions, such as Science Fiction and Comic Book conventions for example. The point I am making is that overall, among their own kind, nerds are not socially awkward, much like the myths like to say.
As of late, Companies like ADV films, a popular dubbing company among fans, have been hiring Cosplayers for promotion and print of the anime’s they are selling. They are hiring talented young Cosplayers to make costumes of the characters they commission and let them model in front of a professional photographer. This has given Cosplayers a sense of being ‘professional models’ in many ways. They are usually young and good looking, but they usually aren’t even tall enough to be real models. Even more lately Professional and semi-professional photographers have begun to flock to conventions, taking photos of Cosplayers for their portfolio’s, working with the young and dedicated Cosplayers to get the best shots possible. In the artist areas of conventions and even online these photo’s are being sold for a profit. So as one can see, Cosplay has become a true form of artistry that is being sold to people interested in the art. Magazines have even been buying these prints for their magazines, forming together a gallery of ‘The Best Cosplayers’.
For both of the parties involved it has become a fun hobby that in some cases may help both parties profit. A photographer can clearly make money selling these prints or use them in their portfolio for future business. While a Cosplayer will sometimes get paid for modeling, and can get recognizing as an amateur model, and in some cases will get hired for commission work to sell Cosplay to new Cosplayers who do not know how or do not want to make the costumes themselves. On both end, it opens up possible ways to make money in the best way that most people with a hobby would like too. They are all like artists in their own way, and they both of them go hand in hand. A photographer has many directions they can go to, but if they choose Cosplay there is a market to sell them. And a Cosplayer it seems will always have a direction to turn to make their passion into a passion that pays.
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