A Camera Is A Weapon Of Mass Imagination
It's interesting how changing up the art you pay attention to really opens your eyes to all the possibilities you have with a camera and the right people. And it makes you wonder why some people don't want to explore.
After I started putting more energy into cosplay photography I started looking around at what was typically presented... and shortly thereafter I started asking a lot of questions.
The main question that came to mind was "Why is it that all I'm seeing are convention photos?" To this day I still don't have a good answer for that. I know I'm missing quite a bit of perspective on this subject but I couldn't quite understand why cosplay could only occur at a con. There's more to life than just conventions... and many more opportunities to make your work shine.
The other question that came to mind was why did things seem so transactional in nature. By this I mean I would see a photo posted by a cosplayer that would link a photographer or vice versa. But it was not very often I'd see their names together again outside of convention coverage. Given that I came up in the nerd music scenes continual support is a very important thing, especially if the scene is local. Even more so if you're doing more than just sharing music links or whatever. But here I would rarely see it.
To be honest I had a lot of trouble trying to understand why this was the norm. To this day I still do.
Admittedly for years I've been of the mindset where if I get a stupid idea and it seems even somewhat feasible I will go for it. It was that mindset that got me into the local video game music scene. Which would lead into filming concerts. Which would lead into doing music videos. Which would lead to live broadcasting concerts at a con. Which would lead to leading a media operations group for multiple cons. Which would lead to curating music performances at a con.
Hopefully you can see a pattern there.
A pattern that would not have occurred if I had stuck to one certain thing.
A while back I had written an article about why I don't convention shoot for cosplay. That particular article was primarily around workflow and how the working conditions drove photographers to really limit themselves as artists. Introducing limits isn't always a bad thing. But if you're only working within those limits all the time and a lot of others in the same space are doing so how will you stand out in your work?
So here I'm going to focus more on the artistic side of things with a few nods to that previous blog post.
One thing I had noticed for those who would do more convention shooting was that the work would tend to emulate existing media. Doing so can be interesting as a technical exercise but much like everything else only 'full on emulation' would be presented. When I saw this one thing I kept asking myself was "Well, how does this really show off the photographer?" And to some degree the same can be said about the cosplayer as well.
In these instances showing that each other knows their craft is important. But are you only engaging in this solely for that reason? Or are you doing this because you both love that character? If the latter is true then doing just a bit more to show how you both see and understand this character will make your work stand out.
Let us take this a step further. What if you were to apply that love and vision that everyone involved has for these characters once the limiting factors are removed?
I liken it to whenever a new artist or writer comes on board for a comic book you've followed for a long time. You may be familiar with some of their previous work but you have to wonder how they will handle the characters you know so well. And sometimes there's that moment where they brought in something new that you had never considered. But it takes what you already knew and understood and adds yet another layer of depth. And it comes to be appreciated.
There is one other bit I haven't spoken of yet and it goes back to what I had seen for presentation. I had the idea for Make Them Awesome in my head for quite some time. So much so that I had registered a bunch of social media accounts even before I had pitched the idea to the current members of the team. And just on a whim I decided to look up various tags on Instagram, primarily #cosplayphotography.
On my personal account I'd see a lot of what I mentioned before.
But on an account where I was not following anyone I started to see people who were doing work that I wanted to do. But it was mostly people in places like Germany, Russia, Italy, China, Japan, Singapore, etc. It was really interesting to see such an international difference in work. But it showed we would not be alone in a similar vision and there would be an audience for us.
There was one day where I was out driving around doing one thing or another and I was trying to think through how I would pitch the whole idea of Make Them Awesome to those who would currently make up the team. We had worked together on various projects prior to the creation of MTA so I knew we worked well as a group. But since I didn't have any examples that would be close to what I had in mind I really spent a lot of time thinking through how I could make sure I could communicate this idea in a way they would understand.
While I was driving a statement randomly came into my head.
A camera is a weapon of mass imagination.
Since I’ve started doing more of this kind of work I’ve thought of myself more as an artist and less as a photographer. I consider a camera to be a tool I use to try to realize an artistic vision. And in some ways weapons can also be considered as tools.
The word 'weapon' certainly has a destructive connotation to it. But what if we were to destroy the limitations of This Is The Way Things Must Be?
What kinds of creativity, imagination, inspiration, beauty, and art could take root and grow in the place of that ruin?