Photographer captures the beauty and individuality of cosplay

­­­­Photographer Thurstan Redding has captured the global phenomenon of dressing up in character costume in his new book Kids of Cosplay

Alex Hickson
Saturday 12 March 2022 00:01
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<p>A group of cosplayers as C-3PO</p>

A group of cosplayers as C-3PO

Thurstan Redding was inspired to produce a photography project on cosplay after attending the MCM London Comic Con event in 2018.

He became captivated by cosplay as a subject matter for its creative expression of individuality and diversity.

Over three years Redding gained the trust of people in the cosplay community and set out to capture the beauty of craftsmanship which goes into their costumes. His book Kids of Cosplay is a culmination of his fascination with the activity.

Cosplayers typically dress as fictional characters from TV or movies and attend the Comic Con events. They are held every year in various cities across the UK with at least one in each state in the US.

Redding’s project is a celebration of this fandom and allows a glimpse into the world where people are united by their celebration of an art which transforms the ordinary into extraordinary.

A group of photography assistants as Batman

A cosplayer as DC Comics character Harley Quinn

Redding is a British fashion photographer and he has worked on projects for Gucci, Chanel and British Vogue.

But despite his impressive body of work, Redding says this project was a real challenge for him.

“I can safely say this has been one of the hardest but also rewarding projects I have ever worked on,” Redding says of the project. “It also gave me the opportunity to work with some of my favourite people, and to really explore a subject matter sociologically as well as visually.”

A manicurist as Mystique from ‘X-Men’

A student and bartender cosplays as Wonder Woman

What is interesting about Thustan’s project is that he avoided Comic Con events as a backdrop for his subjects. Instead he photographed the cosplayers in a domestic setting or on a normal street.

In this way Redding was able to reflect his belief that cosplay is actually everywhere in our daily lives, as well as exploring a brilliant range of light and colour to provide stunning backdrops for his photographs.

While you might think that dressing up as a fictional character negates a person’s identity, Redding experienced the very opposite with the cosplayers he photographed, finding that their expression leads to a strong sense of identity.

A rebel pilot from Star Wars, who has a day job as a retail worker, tells Redding: “Jokes aside, I feel incredibly proud in this costume. This costume feels like an extension of myself because I’ve made it to my liking, I’ve not had to meet anybody else’s criteria or standards to pass. This is a costume I have given a part of myself to, and I’m very proud to put her on.”

A group of cosplayers, all as Wonder Woman

A hospital receptionist as Ursula from ‘The Little Mermaid’

The Wicked Witch of the West from ‘The Wizard of Oz’, cosplayed by a baby massage teacher and exam invigilator

The project also captures the belief among cosplayers that the artistic theme allows a diverse community of people.

A hospital receptionist, who dressed as Ursula from The Little Mermaid, said: “My costume look about ten hours to make, I picked Ursula because I adored seeing some confident plus-size representation in a Disney film, and it’s nice to try and embody that.”

Redding, who also photographed himself as a Storm Trooper for the book, found that in many ways everyone in the world is wearing a costume to distinguish their sense of self.

He writes: “Whether it’s becoming a fictional character or becoming the ‘you’ the world sees, cosplay is everywhere – all of us are cosplaying in some shape or form.”

A Rebel Pilot from ‘Star Wars’ cosplayed by a retail worker

A student and a professional cosplayer as anime character Sailor Moon

Thurstan Redding joins a group of cosplaying Storm Troopers from ‘Star Wars’

Kirari Momobami from ‘Kakegurui’ cosplayed by a communications executive

Thurstan Redding’s book Kids of Cosplay is published by Thames & Hudson / Volume. Part of the proceeds from book sales will go to the British Red Cross to support Ukraine.

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