Inspiring Female Photographers at #AnimeLosAngeles2020

Aside from this blog, Chris Evan’s dog, and Cate Blanchett, my greatest love is probably cosplay. I love designing, I love creating, and I love collaborating with artists who share passions similar to mine. I’ve learned a lot about the community over the past few years, and I’ve learned that one of the most important relationships/connections that a cosplayer can foster is the one between photographer and cosplayer (you can read my post detailing the intricacies of this relationship here).

It can take some time to create and nurture these relationships–I’m lucky in that I’ve made several wonderful friends who are also incredibly talented photographers. For all the connections I’ve made in this community, however, very few of the cosplay photographers that I know and continually work with are women.  This is not due to preference, but numbers. For every female photographer I know/follow, there are ten men with higher social media numbers and reach. (I could write an entire dissertation on the gender inequality and sexism apparent in the arts that drifts down into the cosplay community, but I’ll leave that for another day and another blog post.)

My friend Chloe (@cflo.tography on IG), representing Woke Weebs, moderated a panel celebrating female photographers at Anime Los Angeles this past weekend, featuring the extremely talented Elizabeth Elder (@emackphoto), Cinecosu (@dzmra), and my friend, @KatieBe_Photography. After years of attending conventions and cosplaying, hearing four talented women in the photography field discuss the ins, outs, ups, and downs of their work was not only educational, but also inspiring. I wish I had the ability to recount every single word spoken during the panel–because these women are incredibly well-spoken in addition to being accomplished–but instead, here are my three biggest takeaways from their discussion.

It’s not what you use, but how you use it.

Toward the beginning of the panel, the photographers discussed things they wished they’d known when they began their photography journeys. There was talk of connections made after spending some quality time in the business, but what stuck with me the most was KatieBe discussing how it’s possible to create powerful art without expensive equipment. Lenses, lights, and editing software can create beautiful images, but all you really need is a camera, the desire to produce art, and persistence.

As someone who has occasionally grabbed a camera and done the “point and click” thing (usually so the Mutineer will have cosplay images to post on IG), it never really occurred to me that I, too, could do photography. It is not innate talent or expensive equipment, but rather experience, that separates someone who casually photographs from the practiced photographer.

You are everything.

I don’t mean this in the casually life-affirming manner (okay, I do, because you are everything), but rather in this panel, it was said, and repeated, by every panelist that as a photographer, they occupy many roles: agent, editor, location scout, lawyer (yes, lawyer…have your models sign contracts, y’all), occasional make up artist, and probably bodyguard. It’s something I’ve seen firsthand, and have appreciated many times from the photographers I work with, but I have an extra appreciation for these women who–in the face of potentially uncomfortable situations–put the safety and comfort of their models as their priority. Forget the Renaissance Man–aspire to be a Modern Woman Photographer.

Do it because you love it.

Again, this isn’t meant to be a cheesy self-motivating quote–even though it is–but a reminder that talent is not dependent on social media following. I believe that it was @cinecosu that said something along the lines of “Do it because you love it” (Or perhaps that was her exact direct quote…Siri, remind me to take better notes). Social media is a powerful tool, but it doesn’t measure ability, and talent is not dependent on hacking the ever-changing algorithm. Do it because you love it. 

Really, that’s the biggest take away here, because without passion, you cannot have art. And these four photographers have more passion for their craft than I could possibly put into words here. Their careful attention and love that they pour into their work is apparent in every single frame, and I implore you to check out their Instagrams to see more of their work. And who knows? Perhaps you’ll feel empowered to pick up a camera and try for yourself.