Jackie Tennant brings his love for fashion and documentary to Comic Con as he captures the community
The London-based photographer presents an alternate view of Comic Con, lensing LGBTQIA+ folk in all their vulnerability and splendour.
- Yaya Azariah Clarke
- 23 August 2023
There is nothing like a photographer who seizes the beauty of the moment. Jackie Tennant commits to this feat in his daring project For the Love of Con as he captures a corner of the community at Comic Con. Initially getting the idea while bumping into an ad for the annual event on the London tube, he was lured in by the amazing outfits. “I knew very little about cosplay, so that’s what made me want to explore,” he tells us. “Also, being close to my home, I knew it would make for an affordable project,” he adds. But something far greater came out of Jackie’s exploration of a proximal but unfamiliar world – imagery that speaks to the beauty of the subculture and their spirit and a showcasing of the LGBTQIA+ culture surrounding it, “it’s almost like an alternate pride”.
Jackie’s photographic practice is driven by his desire to merge the worlds of art, fashion and documentary. When you look at his work you can see that he is taking the everyday and amplifying it. Throughout For the Love of Con, the subjects don’t pose in the action of the characters that they wear, they instead embrace each other and allow their own personality to fill the shot. It’s as if Jackie has caught them in the outtakes, when they’re seeking a moment to connect beyond a love for the worlds of film, anime and gaming. “I went twice before and shot this fly-on-the-wall photojournalism. I had a great time but hated the pictures, they didn’t speak to me at all,” he tells us. He instead opted to shoot them in a portraiture style that is more collaborative with the cosplayers and a true showcase of their creativity. “After meeting them a few times I realised it was all about striking the balance between tenderness and vulnerability, and a celebration of these big bright outfits and often hyper-violent characters,” he adds.
Photographing in this way can often be daunting, no matter the experience of the photographer, because how does one constantly approach people and gain their trust? “Mentally I have to psyche myself up, and then after you get hyped up and start shooting people, you have to watch out for the technical challenges of analogue photography, before encouraging people but being careful not to over-direct them,” Jackie tells us. “The area around the London Excel Centre isn’t photogenic, so I came up with the idea of singling out the weapons. It worked really well because it gives a close-up of the effort people put into their costumes,” he adds. And, throughout the project he jumps from black-and-white to coloured film, to create the best possible conditions for showcasing the spirit and craft of his subjects.
As you look through For the Love of Con, the serendipitous moment where Jackie looked up at a poster on the underground becomes one of which we are thankful. With his next project capturing traveller gatherings in Cumbria, Jackie is yet again approaching it with a love of their clothes and essence. “The goal is to always be engaged and present. That’s the subject and photographer’s exchange, and I will always be grateful for it.”
GalleryJackie Tennant: For the Love of Con (Copyright © Jackie Tennant, 2023)
Jackie Tennant: For the Love of Con (Copyright © Jackie Tennant, 2023)
About the Author
Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.