(Cover photo by Vontography)
It’s been more than a month since Anime Central and I feel like I’m only just now in a place to properly reflect on it.
Let me start by saying that I love Acen.
Acen was one of my first experiences with large-scale conventions, anime conventions specifically, and my first real interaction with cosplay; so it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s the con that doesn’t sleep- there’s always something to see, something to do. But my relationship with this con has grown complicated over time, mostly due to an evolution in the way I interact with the convention and a vast change in what I want to get out of it.
My first Acen was back in 2012. Four years doesn’t seem like a long time, but being in my early twenties, a whole heck of a lot has changed. I’ve definitely changed. In May of 2012 I was 21, new to drinking and partying, and excited to do both in this shiny new setting. And what a great venue for it! If you like to party, Acen is a fantastic choice as far as cons go. There’s room parties galore; whole floors designated for it. There’s the infamous soap bubble rave. The whole con smacks of a carefree, cut-loose, festival vibe- especially after dark.
Even now, this is something about the con that I love- there’s a bubbly buoyancy to everything and everyone around.
But. I’m 25 now and my priorities and interests are decidedly different. My personal space has become a lot more important to me. Sharing a cramped hotel room with a bunch of other con-goers used to be no big deal; if anything it was part of the experience, part of the party. But I’m not really looking to party anymore. I need my own space. Especially now that I’ve gotten more interested in and more serious about cosplay. And that elevated interest in cosplay manifests mainly as an interest in the cosplayers themselves and the photographers.
I’m far less the wide-eyed, tipsy tourist, meandering round the convention in a giddy haze. I’m laser-targeted now. I want to put myself out there, attend scheduled events, network, make new friends. I want to meet new people- especially the talented, passionate people I admire online; artists in their own right who inspire me.
I honestly can’t imagine being day drunk anymore. If anything, given this new focus, it’d be too embarrassing. (for me, that’s not a judgment on anyone else. Acen is surely a more than acceptable place to day drink.) But that’s another huge change- drinking just isn’t my thing anymore. There’s a myriad of personal factors behind that change, but in any case, not being much of a drinker vastly changes the things I want to do and the way I choose to spend my time.
My growing interest in cosplay and cosplay culture is the shaping factor in my con experience. Cosplay is a complicated passion for me. I still consider myself more of an awed admirer than an active participant. I’m simultaneously thrilled and terrified at the prospect of digging in and building more ambitious and ‘serious’ costumes. I want to try. I have three new costume builds in mind that I’m beginning to lay the groundwork for. I’ve started researching, bookmarking supplies and tutorials online. The only thing stopping me from diving right in is a lack of superfluous funds. Cosplay can get a little pricey, and I have to stagger my purchases. Thankfully, the next con I’m planning on cosplaying for isn’t until November, so I have plenty of time to pace myself.
And after pouring all this time, energy, and money into building these costumes, I’m understandably anxious to showcase them. Which brings me to my other coinciding desire and fear: working with photographers. I am entranced with the ultra-talented pool of photographers in the midwest cosplay community, and I’m as anxious to work with them as I am to meet/learn from/shoot with all the awesome local cosplayers. But I also dread it. I am cripplingly shy. I’m not hugely self-confident, especially where my looks are concerned. I know I’m not photogenic. I’m probably the worst person, from a mental standpoint, to have an interest in a hobby that ultimately asks that I stand confidently in front of a camera. But here I am!
I had my first taste of working with photographers this Acen, and it was amazing, informative, and brought this paradox within myself front and center. I went to the open shoot, which was incredible; a nice wading pool for novice cosplayers like me to get an idea of what working with real photographers is like. I was beyond fascinated, but so afraid that I nearly walked away. (I’m glad I didn’t) I felt way out of my league, but all the photographers were patient and kind. My fellow cosplayers were supportive. I had a friend with me, thankfully, who urged me to stay- told me that I would relax once we started. (she was mostly right) And I have to thank the wonderful woman dressed as Mad Moxxi- your words of encouragement, helped me hold fast when all I wanted to do was run away. Standing around, considering my exits, I think she noticed how uncomfortable I was. I admitted I had truly no idea what I was doing. She looked gorgeous and elegant and had posed like a professional model in her last shoot. Still, she protested, “None of us really do. We just pretend and hope it turns out.” That struck a chord with me. So thank you, Moxxi, your advice will be my little mantra in times of doubt.
And I’m sure I’ll have plenty more of those fearful, ‘I can’t do this’ moments, both in building cosplays and in wearing them. But just as in writing, I think it’s only the things that sort of scare me that I really take seriously. My passion is always directly intertwined with my fear of failure- but that’s okay. It just gives more meaning to the things I enjoy. And I cannot deny that I enjoy this.
So here’s to costumes and cons to come! To meeting new people, making new friends, and trying the things that scare me! I think I am only just on the cusp of defining what this hobby really means to me.
Photographs used taken by Vontography at the Anime Central Open Shoot