First name and last initial: Matthew J.
Where are you from originally, or where do you currently reside? Cleveland, OH
How long you have been involved in photography? I’ve been actively doing cosplay photography for nearly 4 years.
Which characters have you cosplayed? I don’t cosplay too often, but characters I have done are Death (Six String Samurai), Dan (Street Fighter), Big Mac (My Little Pony), Trixie (My Little Pony), and Popstar Ahri (League of Legends).
Who or what inspired you to cosplay as well as shoot photography? I have been going to cons since my freshman year in high school and have always been inspired by the costumes that people have done. My dad got me my first digital camera as a college graduation gift and the first thing that came to mind was using it to take photos at cons. After about a year or so I started to take photography much more seriously and made it my goal to work with black cosplayers, because at the time there was a significant lack of representation despite there being a very healthy black cosplay community in my region.
What do you do when you aren’t doing photography? I currently work for a big-box retailer, but when I’m not at work, I’m a gym rat. Besides that, I love food. Cleveland is one of the best places in the country for food so I’m pretty spoiled. I also spend a good bit of time traveling to visit friends that I’ve met in the con circuit, and to eat their food… I occasionally play League of Legends, but the remainder of my free time is normally dedicated to studying something related to photography.
What costumes have provided the biggest challenge for you to shoot so far and why? The most challenging shoot I’ve done was for photos that were to be delivered to Arda Wigs intended for commercial use. The shoot itself wasn’t difficult, but I was stressing out pretty hard internally because I’m very critical of my work and was afraid that I would not meet their standards. It was my first step into considering the possibility of taking on commercial work and now I take on those assignments whenever possible!
What is the best advice you would give someone new to cosplaying and cosplay photography? Our hobbies take a considerable amount of time, investment, and practice to really master, and the learning never ends. You should look to “senpai” for inspiration, but avoid comparing yourself to others because that is a fairly easy way to make the hobby a chore. Make sure that once you hit a milestone, you take the time to enjoy your accomplishment! Everybody, even the pros, have room for improvement, but you should definitely celebrate your journey throughout your learning!
What is one thing the cosplaying community can do better when it comes to dealing with each other? Sometimes it feels like a lot of people put too much of an emphasis on obtaining a following instead of just having fun. I can understand why because there are real economic opportunities behind having a large social media presence, but the stress some of my friends and clients undergo because of this is alarming. The worst cases are those whom I have seen grow in following and at the same time also grow to being fairly condescending to others in the community. I invite people to always remember that even though we are sometimes in direct competition, that without the community to support us then we would likely not be wherever we may be as an individuals. Always be respectful to your peers.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in photography? Gear is important, but do not get hung up on it! Take your time to study and practice the fundamentals because photography is definitely a skill that takes time to learn. You can hand someone unpracticed the most expensive camera, lens, and lighting system in the world and there’s a good chance that they won’t be able to produce a winning photo with any kind consistency. However, any camera in the hands of a skilled photographer can produce beautiful work. It’s not uncommon for all the gear and technical stuff to distract us from realizing what good light is, and it takes diligent practice to not only learn what good light is to begin with but to also learn to seize the opportunities when it presents itself to us.