Here at Cosplay Photographers, we see cosplay as an international phenomenon with no borders. Great cosplay and great cosplay photography can be found all over the globe. To help us bring you the best in cosplay photography from around the world, we’re teaming up with Photographes San Frontieres, which literally means “photographers without borders”. Photographes Sans Frontieres is a team of two cosplay photographers, Fernando Brischetto and Adrian Ummo, who believe the same things we do. Based in Argentina, they have joined the ranks of our international Cosplay Photographers Ambassadors in helping to raise awareness and quality of the cosplay photography community. Here to introduce them is our staff editor, Airyo Kyu, who had a chance to sit down with them and ask some questions. See what they have to say and give them a warm welcome to Cosplay Photographers!
1) What made you decide to become a cosplay photographer?
Fernando Brischetto: I think it was a natural choice from what I am used to doing. I started covering conventions in 1998 for most of the gaming events of big companies like E3 and the ECTS as a journalist and photographer because I was the one that had the camera and the hobby to contribute with pictures for some magazines I worked for. It was a matter of time that I started to do what I love, not for work, but for fun. You know, even though people at the E3’s booths are not cosplayers, they do almost the same thing in terms of personifying a character, and that was something I loved.
Adrian Ummo: For me it was the need to explore the ideas and inspiration floating around the community of anime, video games, comics, movies, television series, and more that I have loved for many years. I was a photographer of mainly landscapes, products, still life, and events like weddings, birthdays, or corporate functions. But I was always limited to what the clients wanted in those areas. I know that many photographers realize amazing ideas in those areas and are pretty innovative and with an immense amount of creativity, but in our country back in that time it was pretty hard to implement new ideas in traditional photography.
The years passed and I got into university where I spent three years learning all the techniques and theory around film making at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). Many concepts of the film sphere are in a close relation with photography, so I decided to go for extra classes and special private schools out of the university. I was totally sucked into the world of fashion photography where I found how the creativity explodes take after take with the synergy between the model and the photographer, creating the images and messages behind the products to sell in the wildest ways, surpassing more than that of regular photography at social events. That doesn’t mean that kind of photo is boring, it was just my way of seeing the world of images, and the way that I felt at the time of taking photos.
At the same time I was doing that, anime, comics, and video games have always been in my life. One day with a big team of photographers we began to do photo safari out of town, visiting places like abandoned farms, old towns, country life and etc, and sometimes we go to social events like fairs and conventions where we would do mainly candid photos. But one amazing day we visited an anime and manga convention with a lot of cosplayers and live performances by people in those characters I have always watched and it was love at first sight. It was in 2008, an event called “Jardin Japones” (Japanese Garden), located at the core of the city, focused on introducing people to the more traditional side of Japanese culture, such as anime & manga conventions.
Instantly I left every other kind of photography and started to follow cosplayers and more conventions. The local scene was growing fast, it exploded at the end of 2010 to mid 2011, by that year I was totally immersed and telling myself everyday “now I can make that kind of photos I have wanted to all this time”, recreating not only characters and the situation around it, but also the world and ambiance that displays the theatrical representation of a specified moment in some episode or the inner personality of the characters, searching for the best way to give some kind of power to that cosplayer to show to others how, through photography, it is possible to represent what they love.
And that was how I mixed up my two biggest passions. Now it is like living a fantasy every day with a love for those who wear a self-made costume chasing their passions and feeding at the same time my work. I started to go to more local and mostly non-commercial events concerning Anime, manga and games that I am also fan of. For me, cosplay photography is a fun form of visual art and that’s where I am today.
2) How would you describe your experience with photography thus far? What was the most challenging aspect for you?
Fernando Brischetto: Awesome. It’s been a year since I started doing cosplay photography every weekend, and it has been the best experience. I think the most challenging thing is to try doing a respectable session within a convention center or school, which is usually a place where you don’t have enough room and doesn’t have the mood of the character at all. To make it work, we have to adapt to the environment and get the most out of a few spots in the building.
Adrian Ummo: I treat every new shoot like a new challenge with different grades of difficulty, from a casual shooting at the conventions to a scheduled, fully geared, dedicated photo session. I learned from previous photo-shoots with professional models to attend to the specific client’s requirements, now in cosplay photos the requirements are established by a synergy between the cosplayer and myself, so I act as the director of mostly everything with no producer behind and the level of responsibility is higher, not only because the cosplayer deserves it, but because I set myself into a position where I know how the picture looks like in my head and I need to setup everything to create that fantasy into something unique in the photos. I said that every shoot is a challenge because I often dislike my own work and put myself into a challenge of always getting a better image than the last taken.
If I have to remember a shoot where it was hard to get it done the way I wanted it would have been an outdoor shooting with extremely low light conditions. I was with my Nikon Creative Light System (CLS) off-camera strobe with an umbrella as a diffuser and taking shots from a long distance from the cosplayers, I wanted to set a darker theme as it was for a Resident Evil fan-made movie promotion after a convention and I was lacking the proper gear. But in the end, the photo-shoot looks good, the promotion was a success, and I learned from gear limitations.
3) What was your most memorable event? Photoshoot? Why?
Fernando Brischetto: Most people would think of a photo-shoot (such as the Demon Hunter session) but honestly it was something different. Back in June and after nine months of photography we (Adrian and I) rented an Art Gallery to do the Cosplay Art exhibit (free for everybody) with our pictures, costumes of some friends, Cosplayers and their creative process, which i think was the best way to show what cosplay was all about in a different way. Maybe it was more serious, but I’m very proud of it.
Adrian Ummo: About a year ago when I was with my teammate Fernando at a Macross focused convention, the costumes and the level of production of every cosplay was high. It was our first time shooting together, and at that point we didn’t even know if we would be shooting together in the future, but we got in sync with our collaboration setting everything to get the best light and sharing gear and knowledge. The results were amazing! No one knew us as a Cosplay Photo Team and they were very happy with our photos. We started a new type of at-convention shooting for everyone,working individually with cosplayers from 20-30 minutes to get a series of shots as a scheduled session, the place was a beautiful theater, perfect for the Sheryl Nome atmosphere as a singer, we knew that day that it was our style.
4) What is it that makes you decide that you want to shoot a certain character at an event? Is it because of the character design, personal interest, etc?
Fernando Brischetto: First thing that catches my eye would be new costumes. I do have some information on what some cosplayer are about to show so while I look for them I would probably stop to shoot new cosplays and of course, if I see something I like personally it’s a plus. Good makeup and cosplayers with strong character acting are the best for me.
Adrian Ummo: At an event I go for shooting everyone, trying to get a registry of the overall level of cosplayers but when I spot someone with the attitude and mood for a mini photo-shoot, I focus on him or her like the convention doesn’t even exist, spend time talking with the cosplayer if the time allows, no other upcoming event in the convention, and most important not wasting the time of the cosplayer. They like to enjoy the convention as well, but sometimes I found the time and places and no matter if the cosplay is the best or if the level of complexity in the costume is high or low, I go for the attitude and usually it results in very interesting images. Maybe that’s why I prefer to arrange after the convention that day or another day to do a better photo-shoot, or even schedule time with the cosplayer to do it in a place more suitable for the character. I can’t love every character, I have to say, and when the cosplayer agrees with my terms of shooting in a special spot of the convention and the costume is cool, well, magic happens. I have had the luck of encountering many situations like this, and since Argentina’s level of cosplay is growing, sometimes I miss a lot of chances due to the large amount of cool cosplays around.
5) What kind of style(s) do you aim for when shooting/editing your photos? What is the emphasis or impact that you want to make upon your audience?
Fernando Brischetto: Usually I do some portrait and close ups in every set of pictures. They may not show the cosplay itself, but I like to have the look of the cosplayers’ eyes. It is a trademark in my sets. I learned to set a mood and style of editing based on the characters. Sometimes it can be very colorful with an accent in contrast or it could be very dark, toned down colors with plenty of shadows and flash lighting to center on the eyes of the character. I think representing situations and expressions of the character that the cosplayer is portraying is my goal.
Adrian Ummo: When shooting, I love the wide angle style where the whole cosplay and props appear in the frame at the same time. The environment helps with the composition, chasing lines of the floor, ceiling or whatever is behind or near to get the right balance. I love symmetry on things, and if I can get a cool balance of the subject and the scenario I just pull the trigger. Another style I also like to shoot is the ultra close ups, very near to the cosplayer face, letting everything else blur out. I love using using shallow depth of field because I can limit the view and show the eyes and makeup details only. I try to forget the cosplay for a moment and focus on the dedication that the cosplayers put in to what they love the most. But if I have to choose, I go for the wide angle ones, from the floor point of view, you will see me always in the ground like a soldier aiming with a sniper rifle, lol.
And in the dark room I try to get the Anime/manga/etc atmosphere using colors, temperature, contrast and levels. I am not a big fan of using clone tools unless the close-up is showing make up flaws, I want to apply digital makeup the face always but no more than what real makeup could do.
Sometimes when the shot made does not meet my quality standards so I immediately discard it. I am the kind of guy who thinks if the shot wasn’t made ok, the image editing will not make it better. I always look to improve a proper photo from a proper take.
6) If and when given the opportunity, would you like to travel and photograph cosplayers around the world? Where and why?
Fernando Brischetto: Definitely. Italy, Spain, Mexico, and some places in Japan would be the best, because the backgrounds would be excellent to set the perfect mood for a shoot. Italy and Spain for a medieval look, Mexico for some nice Mayan ruins and Japan for hi-tech buildings and older temples.
Adrian Ummo: Absolutely yes, not only to photograph cosplayers, if we can use landscapes and artificial backgrounds from other countries with a team of Argentine cosplayers, that could be great too. Our photography team name (Photographes Sans Frontieres) describes something about this and we look forward to expanding the cosplay community as a culture, with no borders, or in French ‘Sans Frontieres’.
7) What made you decide to join the cosplay community? What about Cosplay Photographers? What do you feel like you could or want to contribute to the cosplay community?
Fernando Brischetto: I have friends that do cosplay (my fiancee is a cosplayer/seamstress) and I think it deserves a different treatment and more serious and professional exposure than it had when it started here in Argentina. Cosplay Photographers is for sure a place I will learn a lot from fellow photographers and the opportunity to share what I love, and who knows, maybe this might help somebody who wants to join this community.
Adrian Ummo: First of all, it was to satisfy the personal desire for doing photography with people who loves the same thing you do. Sometimes it is not just taking the photo and say goodbye, instead, many cool friends were added to my Facebook list and a lot of them became close friends now. It’s satisfying to get the chance to talk and discuss about Anime or games, and when shooting, it would feel like we are a special part of that culture. Similarly, as we joined the international Cosplay Photography scene, we instantly found the Cosplay Photographers website and many other hubs. But the best shots were related to Cosplay Photographers and Videographers as well so we at PSF are very happy to be a part of this team, among the best cosplay photographers in the world.
The chance to contribute worldwide is a big step in our journey and it makes us feel like there are no limits, or if there are, we can overcome it together faster and easier with this amazing collaboration with Cosplay Photographers. We will always be grateful to all CP members letting us share our work and at the same time this collaboration gives us a chance to show the world our cosplay culture.