Sometimes to get your name out there you have to do what others aren’t doing. Even if it means you’ve never done it yourself.
With the space we work in we knew having a presence at conventions would play a big part in getting people to know who we are. Since we’re artists there’s always the Artist Alley option. The problem is that we’re a group of five and most Artist Alley spaces are big enough for two at best. Vendor Hall is also a possibility but some cons have very particular ideas of who they want. So there’s a lot of navigating there.
Panels you would think would seem like our best bet. To be honest I’ve always been kinda iffy on panels. Unless they’re structured in a certain way they always seemed “one directional” to me. For us that can work with some subjects… but for some of the info we want to offer that may not be the best way for attendees to pick up and retain the information. And more importantly ask good questions.
Some sort of photography demonstration seemed like a good idea. Having some framework but yet some space to explore within it looked like it could work. But most demos I’ve seen in person and online usually have maybe one or two experienced models. I mean it works. Though if you know us at all we’re very much about picking up on some ‘random factor’ and running with it to see what we could get.
So what if we did demos where we not only pulled people out of the audience not only to be in front of the camera… but maybe to also assist in some way?
Everyone on the team thought it was a good idea.
The bit to figure out was to find a place that would allow us to do this. Which would be interesting since 1) we only have a small social media following at this point, and 2) we needed to convince people we knew what the fuck we were talking about.
Last year I went to a brand new convention called Okashicon. It was primarily anime focused but there was also a pretty heavy J-Fashion component to it. Which was a very interesting mix. New cons are always a gamble since you never know if the people actually know what the Hell they are doing. Okashicon was seriously one of the best ran first years I have ever experienced. I really was impressed. By nerd convention standards it could be considered ‘small’. But the people behind the curtain did that intentionally. Which I also appreciated. Then I found out that the organizers certainly had a deep background within the Texas convention scene. Based on all of that Okashicon looked to be a really good place to take a stab at what we wanted to do.
A few months after the con they held a small get together at a bubble tea shop. I thought this might be a good way to get us on their radar. And hey… bubble tea. Can’t go wrong with that.
The person putting on the event was one of the main organizers of Okashicon. I talked with them and said I really liked how their event was ran and how they had a very clear vision on what they wanted to do. And it was because of that I felt that their audience could be receptive to what we would like to present.
They liked our ideas and asked if I could send them an email at the beginning of the year with panel and program descriptions I had in mind. Which I was totally down for. I had three ideas in mind already.
The difference in writing out the panel description versus the program description was pretty interesting. If I had to offer an analogue think of writing out a business requirement document for an application compared to writing out marketing copy for what changes said requirement doc would introduce. A pretty distinct mental shift between the two.
Out of the three two got accepted: “It All Comes Together: How To Build A Cosplay Shot” and “Let’s Get Stupid With Light! Light Painting and Cosplay Photography”. For what it’s worth my third submission was around use of color and color theory. But I’m glad that those two got added as I felt these probably had the best opportunity to deliver the knowledge we wanted to offer and people would pick it up.
It All Comes Together: How To Build A Cosplay Shot
My main point for this demo was really just to talk through ideas with regards to lighting, posing, and composition. This particular demo was set for mid-afternoon on Friday so I kinda figured there was the possibility that not many people would show up. Thankfully a few people that I didn’t know were interested in what was being presented.
Now as far as MTA presence goes I was flying this one completely solo. Here I did have a good bit of luck run my way. For one our good friend Vince AKA DJ R.O.C.K.M.A.N. was going to be at Okashicon working with the NexCrew. And just out of completely random happenstance he brought our friend Steven along (or as we refer to him… ‘Mini-Luis’). They helped me set up the room and stuck around for the demo so I wasn’t completely alone. On top of that our friend Lorelei from Colony Drop Cosplay was there dressed as Utena from Revolutionary Girl Utena. So I asked if she would be our ‘starter’ model and she was happy to do so even if she had to do her own panel 30 minutes after ours started.
For the small group of people that were there they were totally into what we were presenting and were asking a lot of really good questions. Plus we got some good pics out of it. So we will consider that a success.
Let’s Get Stupid With Light! Light Painting and Cosplay Photography
This demo I thought would have the best possibility for pulling an audience and getting people involved.... AND IT FUCKING DELIVERED.
Being proactive probably helped quite a bit.
Since this demo wouldn’t be until Sunday afternoon we decided to make use of our Saturday in some way. Especially since Allybelle would be there dressed as Sailor Venus. And be the only Sailor Moon cosplayer there. At least this way she would be noticeable.
Saturday morning I had printed out some mini-flyers for our Light Painting panel. And the plan was to either ask cosplayers who did some real cool costume or wig work to come to the demo. Or if there was anyone who asked Allybelle for a photo.
Utilize all your possibilities.
One bit that I didn't expect was how in the cosplay groups we talked to actually had some people who were interested in doing photography themselves. It was cool to talk with them to get some background on their experiences, what they wanted to do, and so forth. To establish that connection helped a lot.
As for the demo itself.... It was a lot of fun.
And there was one bit that came out of completely nowhere that I think really helped drive home a couple of points we wanted to speak to.
At first we were doing some pieces with some inexpensive fairy lights I purchased online. As I was setting up the next shot there was someone in the audience who asked if they could possibly do something. And it turned out they had shoes with LED strips built into them. That could change color. And also do some effects.
I stopped my set up I was putting together, looked at them, and said “Yes, we have to do something.”
That’s when I walked into the middle of the room and had an Artistic Moment.
[Note: somewhat paraphrasing here] “Whether you’re a photographer or cosplayer and you have an idea of what you want to do… always have a space in your head for Paying Attention What’s Around You. That is where something completely brand new to explore can show up. And that is where Art Happens.”
And the audience got it.
That bit was a lot of fun just seeing what we could do. We continued on to do a bit more with fairy lights and LED strips. The audience really liked the ideas we did with things that were so easily available. Now when we busted out the PixelStick and did some shots with that… that probably blew some minds.
Some Personal Pieces
When I was putting all of this together I honestly had no idea how I’d be presenting material I had never talked about before to people I did not know until I got up there and did it.
I did put together outlines for these demos. And I didn’t think I would be the expected “Uh/um” kind of person standing with my arms crossed in the middle of the room speaking to people for the first time. Outside of that I had no idea how things would go. Aside from what structure I had I spoke completely off the cuff.
Based on the feedback I’ve gotten so far I did pretty well. I asked Allybelle, Steven, and Vince how I did and they thought my delivery was natural. I did get a message from someone I’ve known for years who was at the Light Painting demo and they said I was a good presenter and sounded really confident in what I was saying.
We’re all for putting ourselves out there in new directions. But this was certainly a new one. And to fly without most of the team was a different thing. Thankfully I had people outside of MTA who were down with what we wanted to do and were willing to help.
Overall this was certainly a good step to take. With what we did during our presence at Okashicon I think we opened some minds. And maybe got a few people just to come hang out and have fun with us in general regardless of what we’re doing.
As for the photos you see here I did very little cleanup for a reason. For all of the crazy shit we do what we get in camera is not always perfect. So I’d rather represent what the camera saw so people can understand there’s more work that needs to be done with photography aside from just pressing a button. I’m all about getting as much ‘correct in camera’ as we can. But at times there are factors you have to deal with in post. And with what we presented with these demos I think with showing the imperfect side we can show possible pieces that can be fixed while shooting.
There was a lot of fun to be had in that imperfection though. Just bringing in some people who had no idea who we were and just trying out some stuff and having fun with it… that brings something that you can’t get if you try to be perfect about everything.