Cosplay Writing about Images

All dressed up: Portraits of Cosplayers

On the cover: Stephanie Ford cosplaying an Adepta Sororita from Warhammer 40K © J. Ashley Nixon


Cosplayer portraits book published

From All Dressed Up: Portraits of Cosplayers

As my sister and I were growing up, my Mum, a poet and pantomime pianist in her spare time, would gather garments, find artifacts, and come up with bright ideas for us to enter fancy dress competitions held in the Sunday School Hall, where Charlotte Bronte used to teach, in our home village of Haworth, Yorkshire, England.

Sally was a mermaid once. She was stitched into a turquoise fish-scale fabric complete with a flipper; transported around the event on a small hand-made bogie cart. One time I was a scarecrow, and when asked how was it that my arms were not getting tired, I revealed my loose hands beneath the coat sleeves supported by a broomstick. My favourite character was Captain Hook from Peter Pan; I recall marching around tethered with baling twine to a small plastic alligator we had won at the local fair.

Back then, we called this fancy dress; nowadays, it’s called cosplay. The characters may have progressed from nursery rhyme to blockbuster movie, but the principle remains the same: pick a character, create a costume, and have fun pretending to be someone else for a few hours.

The Calgary Expo events I attended at the Stampede Showgrounds between 2015-2017 allowed me to photograph and interview a cast of actors playing in a variety of roles found in feature-length movies, television series, video games, anime shows, and comic books. I was curious to see how their creativity could be conveyed at these multi-planetary, family-friendly events through their hand-made costumes, makeup, and acting performances. I was impressed by their proficiency in shaping and painting Worbla (a thermoplastic material) and twisting PVC piping to make space-like weapons and armour from ancient lands. I was struck by the piercing, mythical eyes of a Medusa; the off-world looks of a Titan and the enormous fun and energy being generated by a whole family getting together and playing out a group of manga characters.

All Dressed Up: Portraits of Cosplayers explores the character within characters; stories from people performing their own versions of other people they have a passion for.

Buy the book All Dressed Up: Portraits of Cosplayers

You can see and purchase a copy of All Dressed Up: Portraits of Cosplayers from Betula Books.

Copies are also available at The Camera Store, Calgary.

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