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Thurstan Redding, Kids of Cosplay (2023)
Photography Thurstan Redding

See Thurstan Redding’s heroic portraits of the cosplaying community

Images from the cult photobook Kids of Cosplay are going on display in a new exhibition

Thurstan Redding lost his heart at a cosplay convention. Having shot for the likes of Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, the acclaimed photographer found himself drawn to the striking sight of cosplayers he’d encountered on the streets in Los Angeles and London. But it wasn’t until attending ComicCon in 2017 that he became totally captivated by the whole phenomenon and the ideology that underpins this often misunderstood community.

Redding embarked upon a project taking portraits of individuals from among the cosplay world. Beyond the artifice and the fantasy, he discovered the costumes adopted so thoroughly by his subjects to be disarmingly revealing. Speaking to Dazed last year, he explained: “I think something I noticed amongst all cosplayers is that through the act of impersonating someone else, I actually found out way more about them as people. I shoot so many people who dress up, or are dressed up by others. On set I watch people embody characters all the time. Cosplay felt like that process with the dial turned up. Here are people who dress up and become others. They spend their time, their money, so much mental energy, thousands of hours on these costumes and really in embodying these characters that they adore, cosplayers are also nourishing themselves.” 

Redding’s series of striking images eventually became Kids of Cosplay [published by Thames & Hudson], his collection of poignant portraits of individuals in the cosplay community. At no point do his images belittle their subjects. Instead, Redding becomes complicit in the creation of their fantasies. From Star Wars to The Little Mermaid and Toy Story, the characters are shot with the cinematic grandeur that their on-screen counterparts might be afforded. “Cosplay speaks to why we all dress up,” he told Dazed. “To signify who we are now, to communicate our taste and our history, to become someone with a story.”

Following last year’s publication of Kids of Cosplay, an exhibition is about to open at east London’s Photo Book Cafe featuring a selection of Redding’s portraits from this compelling subculture. Visit the gallery above for a closer look. 

Thurstan Redding’s Kids of Cosplay is running at the Photobook Cafe from March 30 until April 4 2023. To attend the opening and a book signing RSVP here

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