I went to my first Comic Convention yesterday, The Rose City Comic Con here in beautiful Portland, Oregon. I guess I never really knew the actual purpose of a comic-con before attending. I knew that there were artists selling art and comic books being sold, but I was unprepared for the sheer awesomeness that I was about to experience. I hardly looked at much of what was being sold, though I have to admit I was a little starstruck to see the Legendary Robert Englund and Carrie Fisher sitting so close to each other.
I spent a little time outside of the event waiting for Jeff to show up and tried to get myself warmed up to asking people if I could take their photo. I eased my way into things by first interacting with the metalheads. Having spent my whole life as a proud member of the heavy metal community I felt inherently comfortable talking to them, and as always I was received with warmth and camaraderie.
Photography started out as something I could do by myself, a way to express how I see things in an idealized state. The challenge of photographing people for me is to take the situation I’m given and figuring out how to capture the perfect second of that interaction, the instance where that person lets down their guard and shows me a little piece of the person behind the wall that we tend to carry in front of ourselves. It’s only recently that I’ve found an interest in photographing people, the anxiety of interaction was almost always more than enough to keep me quiet.
This kind of got me thinking about the bigger picture of alternative society. I’ve been extremely fortunate to spend most of life being insulated within my community, I know that this isn’t always the case. I’m fascinated by creative communities and feel inspired by every single person that has the insight and strength to try create a better version of themselves.
I was blown away by the effort and intention that every single cosplayer put into what it was they wanted to become. I understand the urge to escape the reality that we sometimes feel ourselves boxed in to. I saw everything from a simple mask to costumes so intricate that they looked like they were made by Jim Henson himself. I applaud the people who have the vision and skills to create the truly grand costumes, but I’m also impressed to my core by the people that have the courage to take their best and share it with the rest of us. It it amazing to see how creative people express themselves in an environment that is socially safe for them.
I started to realize that I had something more in common with almost every person at the convention. I’ve worked hard to create my own costume, my mask being a camera. When I put that camera in front of my face I stop being the person you see in front of you and start being what I hope to accomplish with my life. As the day unfolded I became more and more confident with what I was producing and comfortable with the fact that I was a welcomed member of this bigger society. I began to understand that seeing all these people expressing the physical representation of the person that embodies their individual ideal version of themselves was empowering beyond words.
If I had to say anything to the people of The Rose City Comic-Con it would be this. I see you for who believe that you can be and implore you to keep following your dreams.
Below are my favorites of the almost three hundred people I photographed yesterday, some for their costumes, some just for the opportunity to interact. Thanks, Portland.
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All words and images © Adam Smith 2015.