There is a very high chance that if you have ever been around cosplay, you have heard of - or seen Cosplay in America. Keeping the legacy of cosplay alive, Ejen Chuang has become one of the biggest names in the scene by photographing, publishing books, offering resources and showcasing a healthy, positive point of view of the reality-bending universe of cosplay.
Raised in Houston, Texas, Ejen Chuang grew up as a regular suburban kid, raised around comic books and anime. His first ever experience with the cosplay scene was at a comic book convention he had attended with his father, back in high school. Studying the field of media, Chuang graduated in Photography, moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the field.
Comic books and anime were a forgotten part of his life at that point. It was not until 2008 that Ejen had the chance to reconnect with the subject. Anime Expo had just moved to downtown Los Angeles, so Ejen had the chance to catch up on what he had been missing from all these years. It was no surprise that his passion for photography and the pop culture world would eventually harmonize.
“First of all, I have to say the term ‘cosplay’ has changed a lot since 2008 when I first started photographing cosplayers with my grey backdrop. Back then it was primarily Japanese media-based but as you can tell throughout the years, the term "cosplay" is becoming a catch-all for any media - comics, anime, TV shows, movies, whatever. I feel somehow in the last two years, the culture has really exploded on social media and the conventions have gotten bigger and bigger. I mean look at San Diego and DragonCon!”
Cosplay in America focuses on representing the community through inclusive and positive lenses, featuring all shapes, sizes, colors and genders. Through interviews and photographs, Ejen has published two books, telling the story of mundane convention attendees: “The book isn't actually for cosplayers but for people who may have some passing knowledge of cosplay and wanted to find out more.”
The work behind the glamorous cosplay photographs had been left behind the curtains up until the rise of social media and content sharing. More often than ever you will see cosplayers share their geekdom through the form of tutorials and progress pictures. This type of content has become widely popular on Instagram, YouTube and Pintrest. Chuang had an incredible impact when creating his books, bringing this type of cosplay media to the spotlight, as his books focused "on the 'behind the scenes' - people at home sewing, going to the fabric store shopping, out in the backyard spray-painting their props."
Two books and several conventions later, Ejen Chuang continues to discover and pass along the story of numerous people in the community,:
You can find out more about his work, Cosplay in America's resources and cosplayer stories on www.cosplayinamerica.com