Cosplay in America
Cosplay in America


"Ejen Chuang's photographs do what similar photo books weren't able to do : show cosplayers as real people who like to dress up as fictitious characters. Chuang treats his subject with respect, and honor their passion for the anime, games and manga that inspired their costumes." 
                                    - About.com

"Cosplay in America is a gorgeous tribute to the people who attend anime conventions ... The layout is slick and the photos are lovely. Chuang did what I hope more people will do in the future, portray cosplay as art."  

                                                                                                                - BoingBoing.net


When I was college back in Texas, I started attending anime cons (conventions) in Dallas but once graduated, I moved myself to Los Angeles to pursue photography and left that world. Fast forward close to a decade later to 2008 I went back to a con and was amazed to see the culture of cosplay had exploded in the past decade in part to the internet.

Cosplay (short for "costume-play") is a term originated by Nobuyuki Takahashi to describe the American costumers he witness at the 1984 World Con (a sci-fi convention) held in Los Angeles. Go on to YouTube , spend enough time looking through it and you'll find faded old footage of masquerades from sci-fi conventions in the 70's and 80's where folks worked on creating their own outfits based on their favorite characters.

While the term "cosplay" originally reference characters from Japanese origins such as anime, manga and video games, in recent years I've seen the term start to encompass other pop culture media such as movies, TV, comic books, novels, even television spots such as Flo from Progressive, Billy Mays for Oxy-clean or even the Old Spice guy !

In 2009, I started traveling the country to photograph cosplayers. I hit 6 of the largest anime conventions in 5 months before maxing out my first credit card. My plan was pretty simple : I would show up at a con, set up a simple 4 ft. backdrop paper with a beauty dish + grid and a Profoto 7B and spend the day photographing. My motto was simple : I wouldn't leave until I ran out of battery on my camera or my strobe. Up to 8 hours a day were spent standing in one spot and asking passing cosplayers if they could spare a few minutes and allow me the opportunity to photograph them. In the end, 1,651 cosplayers were photographed from these 6 cons.

The winter of 2009 to the spring of 2010 were spent editing and re-editing the book down to 260 cosplayers representing 30 States in the country. I hired a designer to do the pre-press files as well as a Japanese translator - I figured it would be cool if the book was in Japanese as well as English.  I couldn't see publishers taking on such a niche book and especially with an unknown photographer so by using more credit cards and taking out a loan from a credit union, I self-published my book. In May of 2010, a freighter arrived in Los Angeles from Shanghai carrying thousands of copies of my book "Cosplay in America".

Without the support of a publisher, I've pounded the pavement.  Since 2010, I've been traveling to conventions - flying out to locales all over the country to promote and get feedback from the community at large. I can honestly say the best part of what I've done is the opportunity to meet and talk to hundreds if not thousands of people. To hear their stories, to see their hard work, this tour has given me a unique perspective in the convention culture and I felt humbled by this journey. 

So why did I do it ? I marveled at their skills and technique in creating what is essentially a 2D character into reality. I witness a wide range of people at cons - different race, background, shapes, sizes - to me it was America under the love of fandom. It reminded me of American ingenuity - their resourcefulness in coming up with different methods of creating their outfits. Pure DIY. Not eveyone who cosplays makes their own outfits - some purchase more of the well-known characters such as Superman online or in-stores but there's a large percentage of cosplayers that find the challenge and the trials of creating their outfits as enjoyable as it is to showcase their finished costumes at a convention.  I've seen books about cosplay in foreign countries but never one about American cosplay. 

This October 28, 2011, I'll have an exhibition in Los Angeles. Everyone is invited to come by check it out and for those in costume, you'll get a VIP wristband that allows you into the second part of the night at a local club for free. Halloween weekend, y'all :)

The ICON Projects
5450 Wilshire Blvd 
Los Angeles, CA 90036
7-9 pm

Blvd 3
6523 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
10 pm - 2 am


Please follow me at Cosplay in America for more info. The book is available at select stores, on my website as well as on Amazon. Thank you. - Ejen


Cosplay in America
87
6,121
1
Published:

Cosplay in America

Cosplay in America is a self-published hardcover photography book about the culture of cosplay or costume-play here in the United States. In 2009 Read More
87
6,121
1
Published: