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November 12, 2007 2:15 PM   Subscribe

Elena Dorfman's photos of RealDolls have been mentioned in the blue before. In her latest project, Re-Anime: Photographs of Fandom, Dorfman explores the world of cosplay.
posted by beaucoupkevin (42 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am scared. And scarred.
posted by the dief at 2:19 PM on November 12, 2007


This is very creepy, thank you.
posted by inconsequentialist at 2:23 PM on November 12, 2007


I had never even heard of "cosplay" before.

It is nice to know that I am another couple degrees removed from "total loser" than I thought I was.
posted by flarbuse at 2:24 PM on November 12, 2007


I so did not need that first picture.
posted by parmanparman at 2:25 PM on November 12, 2007


As someone who's been to a great many anime cons, sometimes you get some amazing, beautiful costumes going around. The amazing works by Yaya Han, or the things that the woman who uses the name Tristan Citrine comes up with? Amazing, like they just real-life-formed the character's visual.

....and then you get the really bad ones that make you want to claw your eyes out.
posted by mephron at 2:27 PM on November 12, 2007


Those are some hideous models. Try this for a better example.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:27 PM on November 12, 2007


Back in the 80's I knew a "Siouxsie Sioux" and a "Boy George." They dressed like their idols 24/7 - it was kind of weird. I didn't even know whether "Boy George" was male or female for at least a year (turns out he was a she).
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:28 PM on November 12, 2007


I have heard of cosplay before. Seems harmless enough. It is like when someone goes to a Star Wars convention dressed as a storm trooper. Nothing wrong with that. Why the hate? I dress up on Halloween.
posted by ND¢ at 2:31 PM on November 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


This one just makes me want to cry. Poor kid.
posted by maryh at 2:31 PM on November 12, 2007


I don't think these costumes would be half so bad if they didn't look so forlorn.
posted by graventy at 2:34 PM on November 12, 2007


I don't quite know why the photographer has decided to make everyone look moody/miserable. It makes the cosplayers look really, really pretentious and, in my mind, projects a rather dark vision of the whole subculture. I'd argue that in reality most of the cosplayers are quite a happy/don't take it too seriously bunch. At least the ones I've met.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:36 PM on November 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, why so sad? It leaves the photos feeling shallow and perfunctory, and they don't seem to be actually exploring anything interesting with cosplay. Nerds=mopes is pretty facile.
posted by klangklangston at 2:52 PM on November 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


yeah they look like the before pictures in an antidepressant commercial...
posted by Maias at 2:54 PM on November 12, 2007


This is just a guess, but I think cosplay is something heterosexual men might enjoy looking at, and therefore it is bad. So it must be made to look bad. This theory does not completely account for number 5 (NSFW?), which I actually find to be pretty hot. I suspect that, somehow, I'm not supposed to find it appealing, though.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 3:00 PM on November 12, 2007


Every year, 'round about October 31st, something like 300 kids drop by my house for trick or treat candy. Roughly 150 of those kids are boys. For the past couple of years, roughly 115 of those boys are dressed as Spiderman; about 80 of those boys in exactly the same store-bought plastic Spiderman outfit. I love Halloween, and I get a warm feeling doling out tooth-rotting Reese's peanut butter cups to each and every one of those boys. But I'll telly you right now:

Eighty 11-year-old boys in identical plastic Spiderman outfits freaks me out way more than a few geeks dressed up in homemade anime outfits.
posted by googly at 3:01 PM on November 12, 2007 [8 favorites]


Well, I feel sad now. Not because of the photos, not because of the subject, not because of the subculture. I feel sad because I couldn't identify a single one of those costumes. 10+ years ago I was present when the first manga/anime club in Sweden started and my friends and I then spent lots of time in front of various video game consoles. Now, I'm old and out of touch. Not. One.

And feeling sad because of this is only making me sadder. So I'm a bitter ball of sad, right now. Bring forth Elena Dorfman, I'm ready for my close up.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:01 PM on November 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


It is wonderful when anime people fill the streets. First you see few dressed teenagers, kind of awkward, then some more. Then comes wobbling a big fluffy Totoro suit with permanent huge grin and those small ghost-thingalings perched on its shoulder. It was one of the hottest day of the summer, so there was some spirit inside that suit. March on you fluffy Totoro!
posted by Free word order! at 3:02 PM on November 12, 2007


Because if they were smiling, they might not look so ugly, and "look at these ugly people! Their clothes are so bad!" is pretty much the extent of the series.
posted by Simon! at 3:06 PM on November 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


If you search Google Images for 'cosplay' you come across about a million more photos that have greater life, greater explanation, and greater wonder than any of the ones linked.

I know he's supposed to be a hotshot photographer and all, but these are just painfully badly done. Rather than taking the reality of cosplay enjoyment, he's instituted his own warped vision of what cosplay is. I suppose that's fine and all if that was his intent, but this certainly is no pictorial explanation of cosplay.

That being said, I've never done cosplay. I've just been to a few gaming and sci-fi conventions where happy (and occasionally astoundingly beautiful) people dress up (in occasionally astoundingly beautiful costumes).
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:14 PM on November 12, 2007


I don't understand why they all look miserable. I don't really know people who take cosplay seriously, but I don't get the idea that they're upset about it.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:16 PM on November 12, 2007


I think he's under the false impression that these people are desperately trying to become the characters they dress up as. And while I'm sure that for a few that might be the case, for most the costume is an homage to a show they loved.
posted by graventy at 3:30 PM on November 12, 2007


Having actually just looked through this book I can tell you that not all of the photos have the "I'm miserable" look. This is a fairly small sample of the series.
posted by well_balanced at 3:40 PM on November 12, 2007


Well, this sample feels like the American Apparel Ads.

Considering it's her website and her work, it must be a concious choice to portray her subjects in this manner and pick the photos that most convey "beaten, miserable, and pathetic". It seems rather petty of her to do so.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:50 PM on November 12, 2007


I had never even heard of "cosplay" before.

Same here. Why I love this place. Ya' learn something new every day. Wikipedia helped me out just now.
posted by ericb at 3:58 PM on November 12, 2007


Considering it's her website and her work, it must be a concious choice to portray her subjects in this manner and pick the photos that most convey "beaten, miserable, and pathetic". It seems rather petty of her to do so.

Yeah, is she trying to be the nerd Diane Arbus or something? It feels very mean-spirited to me; much of this series seems to have created in the same spirit as a high school football player calling a gawky kid a fag and punching him in the gut. And I say this as someone who typically cringes in the presence of LARPers and their ilk (uh, leaving aside cosplayers who also happen to be attractive women in PVC, who I appreciate on the grounds that, hello, they're attractive women in PVC).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:03 PM on November 12, 2007


I feel sad because I couldn't identify a single one of those costumes.

I got the impression that not all of those were anime inspired. The boy in the gothic lolita get up for instance, or the stripy Tim Burtonesque one. That said, some of them must be, and I couldn't place any either.

For me, the spirit of cosplay will always be a sassy and brassy Man Faye. Or a 16 year old hottie in a Lum costume.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:03 PM on November 12, 2007


"I don't understand why they all look miserable. I don't really know people who take cosplay seriously, but I don't get the idea that they're upset about it."

I think I'd like it better if I found out that these were just high schoolers near his home that he had forced through some class or something to put on costumes that made no sense to them, and they were kind of schlepping through it.
posted by klangklangston at 4:04 PM on November 12, 2007


Sullen as the dickens!
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:05 PM on November 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


The animation she made of the photos has a broader range of images and seems much livelier in general. There's even some falling flower thing in there that makes it seem like video was the intended medium? I'm not sure. I give her a wavering sideways thumb for execution, on the web at least.
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:13 PM on November 12, 2007


Hm. I look at these pictures and I see a bunch of cosplayers, told by an artsy-fartsy photographer to look sullen and miserable. At least the lighting is good.

And in the interests of full disclosure, I won an award for this.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:56 PM on November 12, 2007


I agree, wemayfreeze. The animation adds a lighter touch.
posted by inconsequentialist at 5:01 PM on November 12, 2007


I got the impression that not all of those were anime inspired

I'm a fairly serious anime fan*, and best I can tell, most of these people are just dressed in goofy costumes. Only a few are dressed as anime or game characters that I recognize; and, even then, the overall presentation is more along the lines of someone simply in costume (i.e., no knowledge of the character), not cosplaying.

Which just leads me to believe these people aren't cosplayers at all, but "models" paid to dress up and frown at the camera. In other words, I think the photographer is full of shit.

* never cosplayed / no real interest / feel it's a perfectly acceptable way of showing one's love for anime
posted by jal0021 at 5:36 PM on November 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


From my knowledge of cosplaying, cosplaying as it is understood now is not always about dressing up in exact character costumes. Some people just dress up as if they were from that character's universe (see the "Naruto" girl in the photographs), and others just like to make anime/fantasy-inspired costumes and wear them around.
posted by schroedinger at 5:43 PM on November 12, 2007


Agreeing with many of the sentiments here. Seems to take all of the complete joy that cosplay-ers have in doing their tributes. I think showing their sense of fun and commitment to the transformation would bring in a different level of sometimes-cool/sometimes-creepy.
posted by ao4047 at 6:42 PM on November 12, 2007


Everybody needs a hobby, I guess.
posted by jonmc at 7:12 PM on November 12, 2007


I'm a fan of Dorfman's work on golf.

The japanese cosplayers somehow seem like they're having fun, like they're pulling off a certain level of chic. These guys seem like they're failing at escapism.
posted by jiiota at 7:24 PM on November 12, 2007


So, I was in Eugene OR and feeling pretty bummed out. I decided to take a walk and see what I could find. I wandered into a used gaming shop across the way from a fantastic used bookstore. I was browsing a selection of mid 90s D&D books when I hear from the back of the store: "Dave*, We figured out how to make breasts!"

My curiosity piqued, I wandered back that way. It seems that two teenage girls had figured out a way to make some breasts for an anime costume they were preparing for an upcoming convention. But, it was the youthful joy they announced it to the shopkeeper that made it so beautiful. I left the store with a slight kick in my step.

*I don't actually remember if the game shop's owner was named Dave, but since I can think of 3 that are, I'm just playing the odds.
posted by khaibit at 7:45 PM on November 12, 2007


I hope girl #5 realizes how hot she is. The greatest tragedy of youth is that there are more attractive young people than there are young people who think they are attractive.

You just want to shake them and say "do you realize when you're 40 you're going to look at photos of yourself when you were 16 and go 'OMFG I was teh hott.'"
posted by maxwelton at 7:45 PM on November 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's called cosplay, not cosbrood.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:35 PM on November 12, 2007


I'm so glad that I wasn't the only one geeky enough to both (1) try and think who they were cosplaying as (Guu? Sonozaki Shion?) and (2) be annoyed at my low success rate.
posted by tyllwin at 9:07 PM on November 12, 2007


i read about this elsewhere (harpers, perhaps?)

the photog asked the subjects to "break character" and "show their vulnerability" -- and this is the result.

also, the other piece i read is clear that only some of the costumes are inspired by actual characters; others are original creations.

i'm not defending or detracting, just reporting.
posted by CitizenD at 10:13 PM on November 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


The video is neat, but it seems like she picked the worst photos of the set to put on the web site.
posted by Orb at 6:04 AM on November 13, 2007


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