Melbourne cosplay photographer Neil Creek is our fourth interviewee. His dA profile is neilcreek, and his photography was featured last February: melcospho.deviantart.com/art/F…
Q: How did you get into cosplay photography?
Neil: Kind of by accident. I first attended Manifest in its second year, in 2001. I took along my brand new video camera, not knowing really what to expect but being dimly aware that there might be people dressed up. Two things were quickly obvious to me: cosplay and cosplayers were awesome, and I'd need a better camera. It wasn't till 2004 that I could shoot cosplay with my first DSLR that I became completely hooked.
Q: How have cosplay meets and conventions changed since 2001?
Neil: They have changed so much! Mostly to get much much bigger and much more involved. I commented to Hayden at MelCosPho 13 that there were more people there than at the first Manifest. Back then, there were no meets and Manifest was the only anime con in Australia. It was very much a 'club run' type event, and, though it had a great community atmosphere, it was nothing of the scale that there is today. Now we have the choice of half a dozen cons, more meetups than anyone could possibly attend and literally thousands of cosplayers. And that's just in Melbourne!
Q: What aspects of cosplay photography appeal to you compared to the other photography work you do?
Neil: Cosplayers. They are creative people with a love of their character and are happy to be the centre of attention for a while. Sometimes working with clients, the hardest thing can be to get them to relax in front of the camera. Cosplayers are already having fun, and often feeling in character. Combine that with the fact that costumes are often colourful, flashy and interesting to look at, and that they lend themselves to dramatic poses and theatrical photo shoots, and it's easy to see why photographers love shooting cosplayers!
Q: Which is your favourite cosplay photo that you've taken?
Neil: This is such a tough question. It changes all the time, and I tend to favour recent shots. I think that given how well received it was, how much it pushed my boundaries at the time, and how lots of different skills from everyone involved came together to make this shot, it's probably going to be a long-term favourite: neilcreek.smugmug.com/Folio/Co…
Q: You've been a cosplay photographer in Melbourne perhaps longer than anybody. Was there any golden era, one where the opportunities for cosplay photography were the closest to perfect?
Neil: Now is our golden time! There are so many opportunities, cosplayers, themed events, huge conventions, fellow photographers and ways to share our work. A cosplay photographer today has their pick of events to attend, many cosplayers of different interests to work with, social networking services to show our work to as many people as possible, and I think possibly most importantly, the relationship between cosplayers and photographers is a mutually beneficial and respectful one. I hear stories about international communities being more competitive and even hostile. I think here and now, in Australia, is the best time and place for cosplay photography.
Q: What equipment and software do you use, and what would you most like to upgrade?
Neil: I primarily shoot with a Canon 5D Mk III, 24-70mm and 50-500mm lenses and off-camera flashes. I've got a bunch of other gear in my bag that gets used less frequently. I process all of my photos in Adobe Lightroom 4 and occasionally use Photoshop for some photo-manipulation if the photo calls for it. What I most need to upgrade right now is my desktop PC, as it's starting to struggle processing the large RAW files I shoot. I'm happy with my current camera kit.
Q: Whose work inspires you?
This is another difficult question because I draw my inspiration from everywhere. The work of the cosplayers themselves which they put into their costumes I think inspires me most. Wanting to capture their work, as well as the character they are taking on is my greatest inspiration. The community of Melbourne photographers is also a huge inspiration. They all have passion and creativity and their own unique vision. Every time they post a new shoot I'm amazed, and I love watching them grow. Beyond that, I follow a few tags on tumblr and a few users on Deviant Art, but most of my inspiration comes from much closer to home.
Q: Are you watching any airing anime right now?
Neil: The most recent title I'm still watching is Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, which I picked up after a recommendation. It started out as mostly fan-service and little plot, but the plot came into it around episodes 3 and 4. Since then, it's become really quite interesting. I think I'm enjoying it because it's mostly about the struggles of a group of young creative people to follow their dreams despite the obstacles that life puts in front of them. It's quite inspirational.
Q: Does any anime, manga, or game hold a special place in your heart?
Neil: I love so many titles, but none get me in the feels quite like Kaleido Star. Similar to Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, it's about people following their dreams against the odds, and it's incredibly uplifting and motivational. Not to mention it's gorgeous to watch and has so many beautiful costumes. I honestly have no idea why more people don't know about it and cosplay from it! A dream shoot for me would be a Kaleido Star group shoot in a circus big top. Also, Sora Naegino is my only 'anime crush', haha!
Q: Do you ever feel tempted to cosplay when you greatly enjoy an anime?
Neil: I actually love making costumes, and have worn one to Manifest once, and I've made a few others for costume parties years in the past. So I'm often tempted, but I know I don't have the time that cosplay demands, and I can't shoot and pose at the same time, so I'll always choose to shoot. If I were able to make my dream cosplay however, it would actually be the Ingram AV-98 Patrol Labor 'Alphonse' from Patlabor: www.macross2.net/m3/moremecha/…
Q: You're the author of several successful eBooks about photography. What photography tip have you personally found most useful?
Neil: Keep shooting. Nothing will make you a better photographer than to push yourself to always keep shooting. Even if you get in a rut, if you feel lazy, if you run out of ideas, push yourself and try to shoot at least every week. If you look at your work after shooting, see what you like and what you don't like, and try to incorporate what you have learned into your next shoot, I guarantee you will see your photography improve greatly in just a few months. And even after years, never stop. Try new ideas, seek new inspiration, push your creative barriers. It's in doing this that I'm my happiest, and I plan to be shooting for the rest of my life.