Kids of Cosplay: Photography book captures cosplay as you've never seen it before
London-based photographer Thurstan Redding has celebrated the burgeoning art of cosplay in his new photography book, Kids of Cosplay, which presents the activity in a whole new light.
Published by Volume, Kids of Cosplay is the result of a three-year photographic project. Inspired by a trip to MCM London Comic Con in 2018, Thurstan's pictures are a showcase for the ingenuity of cosplay in a way that has never been seen before.
For those who haven't had the luxury of attending a Comic-Con, cosplay is a term used to describe attendees who have crafted their own outfits of their favourite characters. These costumes are usually homemade affairs, which are then worn and embodied by fans. The likes of Harley Quinn, Darth Vader and dozens of Doctor Whos are favourites among the many outfits on display.
And while hundreds of photos of these spectacular costumes are photographed at conventions, Thurstan has taken a different approach by turning his camera lens onto cosplayer in unassuming locations. This shows how creativity can thrive even in the most mundane of realities, with ingenious costumes pictured in suburban homes, bus stops and bedrooms.
"I was never interested in cosplay until I began this project – not because I don't find it interesting, but simply because I wasn't really aware of it," Thurstan tells Creative Boom. "I first saw a cosplayer in LA, and then again on the DLR in London, and I remember being so intrigued by how colourful the costume was. I then started researching cosplay and attended ComicCon, and it felt like discovering an almost parallel universe. I was blown away by the attention to detail the cosplayers put into their costumes, and also the amazing sense of community they have."
During his project and subsequent visits to other comic cons, Thurstan would approach cosplayers and ask them for their details because he loved their costumes, often with surprising responses: "A few cosplayers wouldn't break character. I remember asking a Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones if she would take part in the book and, if yes, whether I could get her email, and she told me she had never heard of an email and that I should get in touch with a 'messenger'."
Of all the cosplayers he's documented over the last few years, Thurstan certainly has a few favourites, but it's @f.ukuro who stands out and appears as Himiko Toga in his new book. "The first time I shot her, she was a waitress in a pub near her hometown and cosplaying on the side. But I remember the images coming back, and I felt like a reshoot could be good as I didn't feel the location did her justice. So a few months later, we reshot her, and by that point, she had gone viral on Tik Tok and accumulated over seven million followers and had quit her job and become a full-time cosplayer. The trajectory was quite amazing to witness," he says.
Another moment led to Thurstan being kicked out of the accommodation where he was staying. "I realised the view from my bedroom was perfect for a picture, so we blocked off several streets, and I had my assistants park their cars in specific places to create the scenery for the image," he explains. "However, neighbours started taking photos and posting them, so the owners of the house we were staying in saw them and thought we were conducting some kind of lewd shoot - we got evicted the next morning, as I had five Wonderwomen on the way but not more shoot base."
Presented in a beautiful clamshell box with contrasting acid pastel shades, this limited edition book pairs these striking pictures of full regalia cosplay outfits with a commentary from the individual creators themselves. There are also behind-the-scenes pages from Thurstan's personal project diary.
"Cosplay is a new form of artwork that we're all still figuring out the rules, benefits and boundaries of," says an 'Aquaman' cosplayer from the book. "It gives an individual a voice that is stronger than their own, and I enjoy using that for good. The memes are great too."
Completing the book is a foreword by fashion powerhouse Katie Grand and an essay by writer and performer Tom Rasmussen, in which he discusses the social and cultural context of costume play. An illuminating and compelling interview with Thurstan by noted fashion writer Sara McAlpine further explores the pastime in detail.
"Thurstan and I grew up together, or at least I like to think we grew up together digitally," says Katie. "Thurstan was always top of the list and every single time came through with challenging and beautiful work."
Alongside the regular release, two-tiered editions are also available, each featuring exclusive rewards. The special print edition includes a beautifully produced 280 x 150 mm signed Giclée print of a Mystique cosplay, which is also the first print to be produced and released by Thurstan.
Meanwhile, a limited edition print titled 'The Works' will include one of twenty-three unique, double-sided pages torn from Thurstan's original Kids of Cosplay project diary.