Cosplay: Playful Personal Performance Art

Cosplay, a combination of “costume” and “play,” has become increasingly popular hobby with the popularization of video games, superhero movies, and comic conventions. Fans of iconic characters display their personal creativity in what amounts to Halloween costumery all year ’round.

In the southern California area, several events provide opportunities to engage in or photograph cosplay: Blizzcon, San Diego Comic-Con International, Wondercon, Gaslamp Gathering, and many others.

Diana’s favorite costumes vary wildly. What ties them all together is the love of strong protagonists, video gaming, and speculative fiction. Her long-standing favorite is Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.  It doesn’t matter the flavor, from the early polygon versions to the movies, her collection of costumes took her to many unusual settings in pursuit of the perfect photo-op.

Read more below the gallery …

How it all started

I started out as a gamer.  I played every “Lara Croft, Tomb Raider” game as soon as it came out.  Then came the action figures, comics, and movie memorabilia.  Once I discovered cosplay and an online contest at Adventurers’ Place (now Raider Quest), I was hooked.  It was a great motivation for getting in shape.  I shed dozens of pounds, beefed up with weight lifting & aerobics, and collected costume pieces.

Location, Location, Location

The contest categories included one for game- and movie-like locations.  I and and my wife searched for the perfect backgrounds for photo shoots.  We went to estates, underground storage facilities, chemical warehouses. We even managed to get special entry (after first being thrown out) to the recently opened Tomb Raider ride at Paramount Pictures Amusement Park.

The management gave us five minutes to get our photos and leave. Apparently, unauthorized emulation of their copyrighted characters was not allowed on site.  We rushed through the ride set, which included authentic props from the movie. I botched poses and Shannon fumbled with the camera in our hurry to take advantage of this priceless opportunity.

It was all worth it when one of the people standing in line for the ride to open, called out, “Look!  It’s Lara Croft!” An unforgettable moment for me.

Shannon was a phenomenal photographer, going out in blistering heat and crawling through abandoned construction sites in search of the perfect shot.  She patiently reminded me over and over to suck in my gut, flex my biceps, and stop squinting.

Bragging rights

Our efforts won me Best Newcomer, Third Place in Movie Lara, and Honorable Mention in Location photos. What really made me happy was that I placed in the contest at 50 years of age against a field of competitors who were mostly in their 20s and 30s. It was a great community–70+ women (and a couple of men) from around the world.  I exchanged art and costume paraphernalia with people from Europe and South America and camaraderie over our shared obsession in the online forums before and after the contest.

More photos

See my entire original Tomb Raider photo collection and the photo entries for the Adventurer’s Place contest.