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Tell Me - Andrew Williams

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

Andrew Williams from Journeys in Color Photography is a local Seattle photographer who recently did my new, amazing headshots. He travels. He's wonderful. He's open to new clients. I can't recommend him enough. Below, he talks about taking photographs of cosplayers.

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On Cosplay Photography

I first got serious about photography around four years ago. As a writer, I frequently wrote about places I traveled, and I wanted good pictures to accompany articles and blog posts.

Among the places my travels took me was science fiction and fantasy conventions. I’ve always been a fan, but I missed out on conventions in my childhood, mostly because I wasn’t aware of them—or if I was, I’d been conditioned to think of them as places for total geeks. (This was back before being a geek was cool, and I didn’t yet have the self-confidence to revel in being different.)

But as I began writing fiction, I got involved in the writing community, which meant going to conventions. And not only did I discover a huge community of people who passionately loved the same things I did, I was astonished by their creativity, as people took their geeky passion and channeled it in ways I hadn’t even considered.

Among those people were cosplayers—people who put in huge amounts of work to create costumes and even whole identities, which they then wore about in broad daylight! Now these were people who quite literally wore their geekiness on their sleeves.

As a budding photographer, I naturally turned my camera in their direction. It was my first real opportunity to take photographs of people—I’d been taking plenty of pictures of landscapes and flowers, but an ongoing case of Social Awkwardness had kept me from engaging much with actual humans. Taking pictures of cosplayers not only helped me practice photography, it helped me make friends with people I might not otherwise have met. And as my skill improved, photography became not just want a way to complement blog posts, but a creative end all its own.

When we write, we take temporary ideas from our head and transcribe them to the page, where they gain permanence. There’s a magic to that which I also find in photography—capturing a fleeting moment in time and transcribing it to a picture. Like stories, pictures are ways of taking what’s in our head and making it more permanent, not to mention easier to share with others.

Whereas a writer or a photographer can take their idea and transcribe it by themselves, the creative act of cosplay is a bit different. On its own, it’s temporary. At the end of the day, or the end of the convention, the cosplayer resumes their everyday guise. Their real life transformation ends, and the idea—briefly brought to life through makeup, clothing, and props—turns back to an idea.

But a photographer can capture the cosplayer’s transformation, their “story,” and help give it permanence. Sometimes a photographer might be more like a reporter, giving a straightforward nonfiction account of what’s in front of them. Sometimes they might be more of a creator, collaborating with the cosplayer and adding their own style or ideas, through setting, lighting, and more. I like these occasions the best, when two people work together to create something that neither could have done alone.

Now that I’ve started a photography business, this is an attitude that I apply not just to cosplay photography, but to portrait photography in general. As a photographer, I’m a collaborator, helping someone to create something memorable, something neither of us could create by ourselves.

But cosplay photography will always be one of my first creative loves; not only does it make for great pictures, but it’s taught me a lot about confidence, creativity, and passion.

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My chosen author photos. In case you were interested in seeing some of Andrew's work without clicking links.


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