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Ejen Chuang is an photographer in Los Angeles who has been active since 1998. His previous clients include 20th Century Fox , Warner Brothers UK, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), and various magazines. In 2010 he released his self-published photobook "Cosplay In America" that is filled with images of cosplayers from six conventions across the United States.
The book is 8x10, 272 pages and hardcover. It weighs 3 pounds and features over 260 American cosplayers!
You can get the book at comic bookstores, select cons or online.
» How did you get into photography?
Photography really started for me when I took a black & white darkroom class in college. The moment my image magically appeared in that tray of chemicals I was hooked. My college only had a few photo classes so I started internship with a local Dallas photographer. After college, I continued to assist various photographers around the Dallas area but soon realized I had to leave and head for either New York or Los Angeles. Since I'm from Texas, I'm more used to warm weather so Los Angeles it is ! I spent 10 years working with different photographers, as well as working on my own shoots.
»Where did you get an idea to create the photo book, particularly as a published piece, rather than an online gallery?
The photography book came about from Anime Expo 2008. I had been out of the con scene for around 8 years and when Anime Expo moved to downtown Los Angeles - it was super close to where I lived. I've already knew about cosplay since I started going to cons in the 1990s and I've seen photos throughout the years - which is why I bought my own set-up - the grey backdrop. Too many times I look at photos and say "I know where that is !". I wanted to make it different and I hadn't seen anyone bring in a backdrop before, so I just did it.
»Why choose cosplayers as your subject material?
The book idea came really maybe 6 months after AX. My friends told me that I should do a book. I did some research and realized there just wasn't any book about American cosplay plus I found someone who may possibly back me for the printing of the book which would be a huge load off my back.
»How did you choose which cosplayers to photograph and include? Do you look for something in particular?
I spent 5 months traveling to cons and racked up one credit card in the process. Spend another 6 months editing the book. Since I was out of cons (and anime) for the past 8 years, most cosplays I don't recognize which actually made it easier for me to choose and edit. I based the choices of their poses and how the photo fit with the photo next to it on the next page. Color scheme was a running theme. If say there was a character with red, then the following image there'll be hits of red to correspond.
» As a photographer, what tips can you give cosplayers to help work with photographers to create better photos?
As for tips, photography - not every photographer will know the poses of the character so make sure you have a few in hand. Bringing printouts of the character from manga, artbooks, or other sources can help you both understand. If you see a good background for a shoot, remember it and let the photographer know. Hope that helps !