Woah. When I went to add a new blog post, I wasn’t expecting the last thing to have been a 2019 con highlight. I did a double take.
It really has been a while, huh?
If you’re reading this, I hope you’re healthy and safe. It’s been a really crazy year-and-some-change. Over the course of quarantine, I went through a lot of life changes. I adopted the best cat in the world, I moved once, I moved twice, I picked up an Obligatory Quarantine Hobby (candles, anyone?); all that + six hair colors + two shots of Pfizer later, and I’m finally in a place both mentally and physically where I feel safe, healthy, and at home. But above all that, I persevered. As a self-employed artist in a metropolitan city, I’m giving myself a pat on the back for that one.
But I couldn’t do it alone. The cosplay community was a major help in shouldering many of the emotional and monetary roadblocks I encountered. I’m very grateful to have come out of this in a better place.
What way to celebrate all of that than doing what I love and do best – photograph cosplayers!
In May, I decided to start booking for photoshoots in NYC and Philly for June and July; typically, I prefer to book out about two months in advance for something like this. Initially I envisioned taking a train down to NYC, staying there for almost a week, then going down further from there to Philly.
That was …admittedly ambitious of me.
You see…there was one tiny problem. I’d miss my cat too much.
Ok…but you would too. Have you seen my cat? He’s kind of the best.
What I ended up doing still worked out. 4 days in NYC, 2 days back in Boston, and 4 days in Philly. in NYCk, I stayed with Allison - a fellow cosplay photographer I met through my Femtogs and Themgtogs of Cosplay Facebook Group. She and I share a love of so many things: cats, Megalobox, theatre, cosplay, photography…and good Thai food. I had the pleasure of cat-sitting for her during my stay in NYC, while she shot a wedding in New Jersey; her baby boy Epyon was such a sweetheart, and helped curb how much I missed my own kitty. Thankfully, we were still able to see each other when she returned on Sunday, so we could still spend some quality time together.
Allison was such a helpful, guiding presence for my trip to NYC. I’m not totally familiar with New York. I’ve probably only been about six or seven times. Boston is such a different city; like night and day. So having a helpful friend like Allison really helped me map out my stay.
I ended up shooting all around Brooklyn and Manhattan; from Prospect Park to Central Park, Chelsea to DUMBO. When I head back to NYC again in the Fall for Anime NYC, I’ll likely stick to one central place for shoots. This was a lot of commuting for me (wow…I forgot how huge NYC + Brooklyn really are when combined together), but overall, I had a great time.
Now…onto the NYC photos! I knew I wanted to do some shoots in Central Park. But what I DIDN’T know was that Belvedere Castle existed. When drspancosplay (IG) told me about it for her Aqua cosplay from the JPRG hit Kingdom Hearts, I was totally sold. An entire castle in the heart of Manhattan? Say no more! We ha a BLAST. And frankly, Aqua is my favorite KH girl, so any excuse to bring this strong female lead character to life is a joy.
Span was SO fun to photograph. They are really into Tiktok, and thus falling into expressions and poses came very naturally to them. It was a joy to see them dive so readily into Aqua’s character. Even though we were hit with a random downpour, we made it work!
OOOOKAYYY so about this photoset with the gorgeous Sonja/druidcraftcosplay (IG) as Keyleth from Critical Role… it was 95 degrees on this cloudless Sunday in Brooklyn. I had never been to this area before - we were in Prospect Park, right at the boathouse. During a previous shoot, i had happened upon a waterfall. Small enough to stand in but large enough to make quite an impact, visually. So when she showed up in those antlers and a leaf-covered cape, ready to take on whatever, we had a BLAST in the water and made such gorgeous images! This was a fun one.
So imagine this… a villain comes out in a brand new anime that completely rocks your entire world. Changes your life. Enlightens and resonates with all things evil, snide, and debauched within you. Then imagine further: one of your favorite people on the internet cosplays him and then books you to photograph them bringing him to life… Yeah, I was on cloud NINE when the AMAZING combo model-and-photographer @ dangrrrously booked me to photograph their Ainosuke Shindo/ADAM from SK8 the Infinity. I’d been looking forward to this for ages, because they look AMAZING and we both love this character SO much. We started our shoot in an intimate gin bar in Chelsea and ended it outside a neon-lit, unicorn-adorned storefront in the West Village.
Y’know…as you do in NYC.
Can’t wait to show you more!
I looked for a while on google maps for a space that would accommodate @ sirenscallco (IG)’s cosplay of KDA Evelynn’s BADDEST costume from League of Legends, that wouldn’t involve us hoofing it into Manhattan. Thankfully, the modern architecture near Brooklyn’s Metrotech Center provided bold colors, fun sculptures, and urban settings. Doesn’t Nikki look AMAZING? It was really fun to get editorial with her and play with fun shadows and light. I last worked with her at Colossalcon East, and she is such a joy to hang with. Every time I work with her I feel invigorated afterwards.
Getting to work with past clients is always a treat - especially when it’s been ALMOST HALF A DECADE since we’ve worked together. Luna / @ stardusting(IG) and I haven’t seen each other since Brooklyn’s 2015 Sakura Matsuri…needless to say, my style has undergone a LOT of changes and thankfully, so have my skills. It was nice to revisit each other after so long apart :) We shot at the Prospect Park Boathouse and the surrounding area. This wooden dock with a sweet little fence provided a nice shelter from the insane 95-degree weather.
After New York, I went back to Boston for a brief intermission - and then it was off to Philly for 4th of July Weekend. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, other than a good time. I was staying with great friends in the heart of the city, right near the art museum. Honestly, I’ve spent very little time in Philly and wanted to change that. It seems like there’s such a vibrant cosplay community in the area! So much talent and passion…and I really wanted to know what it was all about! So I was very excited to get to know the city a bit more during my shoots.
I stayed with two very, very dear friends of mine: Danni and Prince! I met Danni on twitter years ago, and Prince not too long after. They’ve become some of my absolute closest friends, biggest inspirations, and favorite people on earth. Getting to stay in their anime-covered apartment in downtown Philadelphia was a joy. I wasn’t even a 15-minute walk from what ended up being my go-to location the ENTIRE weekend: the park surrounding the Philadelphia Art Museum, including the Fairmount Waterworks, Boathouse Row, and Azalea Garden… honestly, I could not have asked for a more ideal venue. Such gorgeous architecture, nature, and urbanscapes surrounded this central area, which made my shoots flow so seamlessly into each other. That’s right, baby…no hauling my butt across the city in public transit for an hour and twenty minutes (coughcough, NYC…). Just a simple 15 minute walk, and I had all sorts of settings at my disposal.
Only one problem: there was some rain.
By some I mean…a lot.
But that’s okay. I improvise well ;)
My shoots started on Saturday morning, when the sun was bright. But it wouldn’t have mattered even if it was raining, because the gorgeous smile of Jackie/ jayunacosplay would light up even the biggest summer storm :) Here she is cosplaying Bernadetta from Fire Emblem: Three Houses. We had a LOT of fun with the shadows, light, and framing of the gorgeous Fairmount Waterworks wedding venue. The Grecian pillars and sophisticated lampposts lended well to the timeless, academic vibes of the JRPG she was cosplaying from.
But I bet you can see the rain those clouds are holding…
…you’d be right. Boy, did it rain. I had a brief break with Danni and Ridgway for about three hours between my shoots, and when I saw it downpoured…my GOD, did it rain. Torrential. I wasn’t sure how we’d pull through from it, but I knew that the areas I was shooting in had at least a FEW overhead coverings. So maybe we wouldn’t be completely soaked?
Thankfully, my next client didn’t care. And I knew her at this point: Rae was down for anything, rain or shine. She’s always been one for an adventure, whether she’s a Pokemon-Mermaid fushion BABE or traipsing through the woods as a runaway experiment…yeah, I love working with Rae of Raedioactivity. We’ve worked together since Katsucon 2019, when she booked me for an INCREDIBLE nine-person-group Eeveelution Mermaid Extravaganza…ever since then, well, we’ve been inseparable. In Katsucon 2020, she booked me for Cheza of Wolf’s Rain…which was one of my FIRST real animes when I was 13. THIRTEEN! You bet I jumped at the opportunity to photograph her then…so when she wanted to work with me as her Harley Quinn from Birds of Prey, I said HELL YEAH!
Rae drove like, 4 hours to shoot this with me, one way, because she is DEDICATED. But that’s okay because I drove like 7 hours to do this, one way, so we are both crazy. After the downpour, the sun peeked out, and we had fun splashing around in puddles. I love Rae’s sense of adventure, and open mind to having a good time. It’s all about the relationship between model and photographer; and when it clicks, it clicks, baby! I had a blast. And I think she did too ;) Experimenting with movement, mood, and candidness is really something I want to explore more in my work.
The weather that day continued to fluctuate from gorgeous, dramatic light to rain. I wasn’t sure what to expect with my final shoot on Saturday, but boy am I glad I didn’t reschedule. I got some gorgeous light with this shoot of Kyr/ @mintyguru (IG) as Diluc from the JRPG Genshin Impact!
It was so, SOOOO good to see them again alongside my lovely friend Connor who tagged along for the ride. Thank you, Connor, for being an amazing assistant! Kyr, Connor and I met through a chance encounter in passing at Katsucon 2019 and from there, they’ve been so special to me. Kyr is no stranger to my lens, having been in front of it at Anime NYC 2019 as Lio. And Connor is no stranger to my crazy ideas, having followed us then into a bowling alley where we did a spontaneous photoshoot in neon lights by some bowling lanes… All in all, the three of us make a pretty solid team ;)
The dramatic lighting and warm, late-day sun made for this romantic image of Kyr in downtown Philadelphia.
We definitely did end this shoot drenched and crossing the street, laughing and having to hide under the museum awning to avoid the insane downpour though. Worth it!
Thus, my Saturday was complete! Drenched and happy, I closed out the night with Mario Party and led into the 4th of July on a cloudless day with coffee and nonstop chatting with Prince. It was so, so good to catch up with friends. And best of all, we had the best view in the house for the Philly fireworks…a roof deck all to ourselves!
Uno + chips and guac + White Claws + veggie plates + sunsets + fireworks so big that I fell on my BUTT… best 4th of July in a LONG, LONG TIME!
But the party wasn’t over yet!
Monday brought my last two shoots, and thankfully, some well-earned sunshine with it. I started my day with a shoot I’d really been looking forward to for a while… Christina @ reymorado.cosplay and Nina @ neofi.cosplay (both on IG) brought to my lens a VERY SPECIAL PROJECT: Joe and Cherry from SK8: The Infinity!
Y’all, SK8 was my first anime I watched in a long, LONG time. And frankly, the first anime I watched as it came out (as in, tuning in weekly every Sunday, instead of watching it all at once after it had been broadcast entirely) since I was maybe 13? This anime was so special to me - and them, too. And even better…IT WAS A SHIP! And even betterer?? CHRISTINA AND NINA ARE LIKE, ACTUALLY IN LOVE, SO IT MADE PHOTOGRAPHING JOE x CHERRY EVEN MORE SPECIAL!! If you know anything about me, you know I love shooting ships (aka, fictional relationships between characters). Joe and Cherry mean so much to Christina and Nina. So getting to photograph this IRL couple as this anime couple was so, SO good. And the lighting was PERFECT! Look hoW CUTE THEY ARE!
And speaking of Cherry…the cherry on top to my entire trip was getting to spend some quality time with Lauren aka @VintageAerith (IG, twitter). She cosplayed Persephone from the Hades video game on the Nintendo Switch. Which meant these big Grecian pillars at the Fairmount Waterworks venue, and the Azalea Garden, were REALLY put to good use. Look at how gorgeous she is in that well-earned sunshine!
The flowers around the area bloomed beautifully, encapsulating the lush, flora-filled gardens that fit Persephone’s setting in the game. Lauren was an absolute joy to work with. My only regret is that we couldn’t grab a coffee together afterwards because I had to book it back home…but next time for SURE!
After wrapping up things with Lauren, I high-tailed it back to Boston with my road-tripping pals. Honestly, I missed the vibes immediately. I had such a fun weekend in Philly; I’d love to come back again soon.
In conclusion, it was definitely a familiar sort of chaos: throwing myself into new situations, new settings, and new cosplays…but coming out of it feeling satisfied with my work, and enchanted by the people who I met, means the world to me.
If you read this whole thing, we’re friends now. So definitely add me on social media if you haven’t already! Let’s connect!
Where will I head next? Follow me on IG @ chezphotocosplay, or twitter @ chezphoto to find out
You can always book me in New England - I call Boston my home, but travel wherever your love for cosplay takes you!