Thurstan Redding’s new photobook dives into the vibrant, creative world of cosplay
The three-year project is born out of chance encounters with cosplayers and the photographer’s obsession with liminal suburbia.
- Olivia Hingley
- 25 March 2022
When we last caught up with the photographer Thurstan Redding he had just finished a heartwarming series centering on Castle Village, a retirement village in Hertfordshire. But now, whilst still in his pursuit of compelling communities, Thurstan has turned his focus to a younger generation and dove headfirst into the vibrant, improvised world of cosplay. From a gathering of Batmans outside a bungalow, Mystique pulling on a cigarette, and Spiderman drinking milk straight out of the fridge, Kids Of Cosplay brilliantly demonstrates the unconventionality of one of the twenty-first century's most creative subcultures.
Whilst Thurstan tells us that he always dreamt of creating a photobook, deciding on what it would be about wasn’t as easy. But, being sure he didn't want it to be a retrospective of his previous work, he set himself the “much more enticing” project of exploring a specific subject matter. And, it was while Thurstan was on an assignment in LA that he saw a cosplay and recalls being “so intrigued”. By chance, a few months later, Thurstan saw another cosplayer on the DLR in London, upon which he decided to make his way to a Comic Con convention where he was instantly fascinated, “the costumes were just so intricate, and they really carried a sense of optimism which I loved.”
Interestingly, the book stylistically began with a much more documentary edge; there is a whole other version shot at Comic Con which eventually got scrapped. “It felt very out of balance,” Thurstan explains, “the cosplayers were bringing so much to the table in terms of their costumes, and it didn’t feel right to shoot them in such a stripped back and simple way.” Instead, Thurstan invited the cosplayers to specific locations that had been purposefully lit and constructed, “this really allowed me to explore new themes, such as the existence of cosplay in very liminal spaces”, he elaborates, “as well as the obsession I’ve always had with suburbias”.
But, this focus didn't come without its (quite humorous) issues. Recalling one particularly eventful shoot, Thurstan tells us how the project did end up causing “a lot of local drama”. During the shoot, some images were taken at the Airbnb the crew were staying in. Before long, the neighbours had caught wind of the unusual scenes and started taking pictures and posting them on local social media groups. “We were evicted the next morning as I had 5 Wonder Women on the way to set”, he reminisces, “we ended up having to base ourselves in a nearby camping site, and had to cut the shoot a day short”.
A stand out element for Thurstan throughout the project, was the dedicated creativity of the cosplay community. The photo of The Little Mermaid's Ursula lying on a bed, the book's cover image, Thurstan cites as “an obvious favourite”. “She did all of that purple make-up herself in the kitchen. It took three hours, and when she arrived on set I really felt like it could be a cover”. Another favourite of Thurstan's is the one of X-Men’s Mystique, lying in the middle of the road, drawing on a cigarette, exuding a cool confidence. “It was the final image I shot for the entire project”, he recalls, “so it felt like the closing of a three-year chapter in a really moving way”. If you're an avid cosplayer, an admiring fan, or even just someone looking to immerse yourself in an exciting new world, this is the book for you.
GalleryThurstan Redding: Kids of Cosplay (Copyright © Thurstan Redding, 2022)
Thurstan Redding: Kids of Cosplay (Copyright © Thurstan Redding, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.