12 April, 2010

Tekko '10 (Aside: Cosplay Photography)

The main attraction of an anime convention for me is the people. Some go to a convention for the celebrities, but I go to a convention for the people. Of course, being an antisocial loner, I don't mean that I actually interact with the people, I just like watching them. And while there are stereotypes about otaku and geeks in general, the truth is, there are as many attractive people at an anime convention as there are anywhere else (except places that specifically attract attractive people - like a supermodel convention, for example :3). It helps that the demographic is relatively young, too.

And the special benefit of an anime convention is the cosplay. Cosplay can be exciting because you get to see your favorite characters (if you're an anime fan) imitated in 3D (yes, I know 2D > 3D, but that doesn't mean 3D doesn't have its own unique appeal :p). Plus - and there may be some people who don't want to hear this, but - there are a lot of fetish elements in anime cosplay. And when I say that, I don't necessarily mean that in the context of raw sexuality - although there's that, too. I'm just saying, there's a whole lot to admire.

So while sitting around, watching all the people in interesting costumes go by, I got to thinking about beauty. In my mind, there exists an abstract form of ideal beauty. When I look at a person, I might notice an element here or there that reflects that ideal form of beauty - but it's just an element. In most cases, the more I look, the more I see the other elements that person possesses that clash with the ideal form my mind is seeking. Some people have more of the ideal elements than others, and those are the people my gaze is drawn toward more strongly. It is rare, but every so often my eyes will light upon a figure whose combination of elements is so perfect, that no matter how long I look, I cannot find a flaw. When I discover such an image of divine beauty rendered in earthly flesh, I am overcome by a feeling of great weight. I would drop to the ground and bow before this goddess if only she would acknowledge me, if only she would let me be close to her, if only she would allow me to admire her (and if only I wouldn't be criticized and then ostracized for my unnatural outburst of affection).

This feeling leaves me with a longing desire, and since I don't feel in a position to appease it, I have to start wondering what it is for. In terms of pure physical attraction, one could suggest the purpose is procreation, but I'm above and beyond that. Besides, I view beauty as an ends in and of itself - to consider it as simply a means for some other end would be blasphemy. And in any case, my lofty notions of getting along with the people I am most attracted to have already been shattered by past (painful) experiences. But this feeling cannot be ignored, and thus I must find a use for it. Preferably something more satisfying than an everlasting source of depression.

As a photographer, the obvious answer is to capture that beauty on film to be shared and admired and preserved for eternity (relatively speaking). Which brings us to the question of why I don't take cosplay photographs at anime conventions anymore. The obvious answer is my hesitation when it comes to approaching strangers, but it goes deeper than that. Rather than taking quick snapshots of a lot of normal people in costume (which anyone can do, and many do), I'd prefer to take the time to create flattering portraits of only the most attractive people I see. But the more serious the shoot becomes (and the more attractive the model), the harder it is for me to ask a stranger out of the blue who, though she might happily pose for a snap or two, probably doesn't have the time or the inclination to indulge my unexpected request.

And anyway, I'm not comfortable working with strangers in that way. Especially not in such a chaotic environment. So, it's not like I'm trying to downplay my own failings, but the fact is, if I were to take cosplay pictures, I just wouldn't be satisfied with the run of the mill shots you most frequently see. I demand more, and I'm not comfortable demanding that from people I don't know, at this time. Still, David Hamilton, a photographer I greatly admire, once said, "if you are on a beach and you notice a face, or a body, that stands out from the crowd, the sight of which makes your heart leap in your breast, then stop. If your feeling is honest and sincere, it will help you find the right words. Who knows what could then come from such a meeting?" Maybe the day will come when I am able to follow David Hamilton's sagely advice, but that day is not today.

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