This is definitely not the kind of Kickstarter project you hear about every day, and even more surprisingly it's coming from one of our own Bleeding Coolers, Cosplay Correspondent, major cosplay photographer at conventions for us, and host of the video show Comics and Cosplay that has often appeared on Bleeding Cool, Endy Mageto. As a deeply dedicated member of the cosplay community, and a very talented photographer and host, Mageto observed the cosplay scene long enough to pin-point a major problem and need for cosplayers: a truly amenable environment for photo shoots and a way for cosplayers to meet and network with each other out of the hustle and bustle of comic conventions.
Mageto and John Haelne scouted locations in the New York area and set the pieces in place to stage the first Meraki Expo Cosplay Photoshoot Event this Spring. To do that, they need to crowdfund the fees for the space ahead of time, and so have taken to Kickstarter. The campaign began this week, and has already generated interest.
Bleeding Cool talks to Endy Mageto about the project.
Hannah Means-Shannon: This may be one of the most unique Kickstarter ideas I've seen that's not totally random, like a Kickstarter for better macaroni. But in all seriousness, what kinds of experiences, and presumably frustrations, led you to ask, "Why isn't there a special convention for cosplay photo shoots?"
Endy Mageto: Last year while I was covering cons for Bleeding Cool I started to realize that beyond big promo photo materials most conventions take cosplayers for granted. There are not a lot of activities planned for cosplayers beyond a costume contest. Additionally the environment at typical con is not always the best for cosplayers to take pictures. Between pushy security guards, overzealous fans, and cranky booth vendors, it can be a hard place for cosplayers to exist. So I felt it was time we created an event that catered to the cosplay community's interests and desires.
HMS: The argument that you make on your Kickstarter page is really striking and sensible. It's quite true that the aesthetics of convention centers are pretty terrible for photography. I remember walking around for a half an hour for a friend to take a pro photo of me we needed, and even then we only found one foot of space that worked. What aesthetics are "bad" at conventions and what do cosplay photographers really need?
EM: Honestly just about every aspect of most convention centers are bad. While the outside architecture can be really amazing, generally the inside of most conventions centers are very boring. They usually have flat grey walls. Even when there is some small area of greenery, it is usually super crowded with everyone trying to shoot there.
HMS: What do you think are the benefits for cosplayers in having a dedicated location and event for photoshoots? Will this make travel easier, or help in keeping costumes in good condition for photos?
EM: I think this will allow them to have the freedom to do some really amazing shoots. Since it's going to be more of a community event people will not to have to worry as much about their costume being ruined or destroyed from typical con crowds. Also having an event dedicated to photo shoots, cosplayers will have more time at their favorite conventions to enjoy the convention and spend time with friends without the stress of finding a time and place to get at least one decent picture of their costumes.
HMS: Do you think an event like this will lead to more networking and conversation within the cosplay community since there's not the added chaos of a comic con around them?
EM: We hope so. There can be a lot of stress for cosplayers at a convention and that is not always conducive to networking and building friendships. At an event like Meraki Expo there is less of a chance of cosplayers feeling like they're being pulled in a million directions because the event has a laser-like focus.
EM: We found the venue by looking around at various photo studios in the area. There are two factors that make Art Factory a really great space; its size and the diverse environments it provides. The different areas range from cavernous vaults to European galleries. We believe there will be an area that can suit almost any costume.
HMS: I noticed that you mention the event is open to "anyone". Does this mean regardless of cosplay costume proficiency or equipment sophistication for camera crews? Does that include people who just want to take amateur pictures and enjoy the experience, or would that compromise the space available?
EM: Yes, that is absolutely correct. Any and all with a passion for cosplay are welcome. Anyone with an interest in or a passion for cosplay and photography are welcome. There is not a proficiency requirement for attendance.
HMS: I have a strange question for you: if there are lots of cosplayers and photographers in one place, in an even more concentrated way than a comic con, will there need to be special permissions for use of images? Might a cosplayer find their picture is taken by a pro without them knowing it?
EM: It is not very likely. Since most of the attendees are members of the cosplay community, they will understand the generally accepted rules and etiquette.
EM: We have a lot of different rewards at a variety of different contribution levels. Some of the rewards include a ticket to our kickoff party, exclusive prints, private photo shoots with guest photographers, and even being one of the featured cosplay guests at our booth for NYCC 2015. As always we appreciate any and all contributions to our project.
The Meraki Expo Cosplay Photoshoot Event campaign runs through February 20th and has a $15,000 goal, 80 percent of which will be used to book the entire event space for cosplayers and photographers.
**The campaign is also going to be having a Kickstarter Kickoff Party in New York City this Friday, January 30th, at Bowlmore Lanes in Times Square to help raise money. You can find more about that event here.