Written by: Gary M. Kenny, CC2K Comics Editor
Special Edition New York 2015 was a lot of fun this year. They had tons of artists, writers, cosplayers, and photographers. Here at CC2K we are all about finding new talent. When we saw up and coming photographer Tom DeRosa’s awesome SENY photos, we knew we had to speak with him.
CC2K: Hi Tom, thanks for talking with us today. I’ll start by asking you where your interest in photography, more so cosplay photography came from?
DeRosa: When I was a kid I was a skateboarder but I wasn’t very good at it. The skate magazines fascinated me though, as did the skate photographers. I got my first real camera when I was 13 or 14, just so I could shoot with my friends at demos and I have been a hobbyist ever since. I only started reading comics about 10 years ago. My first con was the NYCC in 2008. Again, I was fascinated but I knew right away which side of the camera I wanted to be on. Even then it took coming for a few years before I was comfortable asking anyone to pose for more than one quick snapshot.
CC2K: So cosplay, similar to your skate photos, was just a way to be a part of it?
DeRosa: I’d always been into making really elaborate costumes myself, for Halloween and such, so I respect the hell out of what they do. The more cons I started to come to, the more I wanted to do them justice with the pictures I was making. I’ve always loved taking pictures of people, making them look good. I want to make them look how they imagine themselves to be, or show them how cool they really are. Cosplay photography is one of the most fun ways I’ve found to do that. My way of saying, “Hey, just in case you don’t know how bad ass you look, let me show you.”
CC2K: What has been your most challenging photoshoot?
DeRosa: I started shooting roller derby this year and it is super challenging, but so much fun as well. Those women are really passionate about what they do and it shows. But the challenges are the same as cosplay photography. Huge venues are dark with terrible lighting and all kinds of mess in the background. But you work with what’s there. It makes it all the more rewarding when it works out.
CC2K: How do you get the shots you want; especially when working with cosplay models?
DeRosa: Cosplay models are so wonderful and cons are such a great place. Where else can you go and meet hundreds of eager and friendly models, colorful as can be, dressed up as your favorite funny book characters? It’s the best place to be with a camera I can imagine. Now, getting the shot, that really depends on what you’re after. For a while all I wanted to do was candid floor shots. I didn’t worry too much about where we were or what was behind the person, it was just about capturing the moment. I love those shots, they’re fun and can be done really well. Then you have the more planned out photo-shoot type shots. These take a bit more planning especially with time and space; usually all in short supply at a con. Though, even a little bit of separation can do the trick, just to clean up the background or take a few extra minutes to get some interesting angles and poses. Contacting people ahead of time really helps, I talked to a few people before this years NYCC Special Edition and having that extra time made a big difference. I don’t know many people, did I mention I’m really new at this?
CC2K: Hey we all start somewhere and your photos are excellent. These SENY photos look great and it shows how much fun this con is getting. Tell us about your time at this years SENY.
DeRosa: Special Edition was a blast this year. Last year it was one of the quietest, but coolest cons ever. I brought a big folder of books and got a bunch of them signed. Try doing that at NYCC, you’ll spend 4 days waiting in line.
CC2K: I agree. It was so easy to meet and talk to all the creators and artists. This year too. I got to speak with Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher for awhile. I loved it.
DeRosa: I just walk right up to Ramon Perez with my Hawkeye and got it signed. I figured it would be bigger this year, all cons are growing exponentially these days, and it was. I contacted a few cosplayers I knew from instagram ahead of time. Mostly, I just showed up, knew nothing about Pier 94 or what I’d find there. The cosplayers really showed up in force this year. Last year there weren’t many at all. I shot inside a bit, but it was pretty dark and weirdly lit. Outside was a much better option. I took a lot of breaks and just wandered around outside, shooting with people I’d met inside or as they showed up. There are a lot of really cool and talented people. The level of cosplay just goes up and up. It’s really astounding. Shooting with them outside was a blast. For some reason the FDNY had a firetruck just feet from the entrance and weren’t paying too much attention to it. So, hey, what are you gonna do: I have a Spider-man here who needs to pose somewhere right? We got in a little bit of trouble but no real harm was done. We still got to use it as a prop/backdrop for the next two days.
CC2K: Sounds like it was a blast. I also loved how small the SENY is. This year it was filled with cosplayers and huge named artists and writers. I agree though, the Pier was a bit dark. Does that effect your photos? What kind of camera equipment do you use? Do you rely on more editing programs (ie photoshop/lightroom)?
DeRosa: I use Fuji mirrorless cameras so I travel pretty light. My main camera is a Fuji X-T1, I shot everything at Special Edition with either a 35mm or a 16-55mm lens and so far I rely on natural light only. But man, was it dark in there at Pier 94, so I may rethink that for next year. I try to do as much as I can in-camera and not too much with Lightroom because I take such an ungodly number of photos it would take me a year to process them all if I did.
CC2K: Do you travel to many cons? Do you enjoy shooting at cons or would you rather have private sets?
I love travelling to cons, and this year I’m going to more than I’ve ever been to. For a bunch of years I would only go to NYCC, and then NYCC and ConnectiCONN. The last couple years I’ve been adding them around New England, RICC, Boston Comic Con, and Special Edition. Maybe I’ll start going further out, we’ll see how this year goes.
CC2K: Any cosplayers that you’ve worked with that you expect to reach the limelight? Any you recommend us checking out?
DeRosa: I met a few outstanding cosplayers at SENY that everyone should go look at immediately. Lillydubs is a gorgeous, sweet, fierce little thing who was Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. She’s pretty new too, but I’m sure she’s going to be figuratively huge. I also shot Kokorokristin and she’s just awesome. She did a sublime Ms. Marvel on Saturday and on Sunday I got shots of her as Black Canary. Also did great shoots with Caity Corpse, Avarent, Lin Reika, and Lithys Cosplay
CC2K: I ask this with everyone who attends a con because I find it important. Did you witness or experience any harassment?
DeRosa: I haven’t encountered it firsthand, obviously I wouldn’t be the target of it, but I’ve heard the stories and they’re disturbing. I think the “Cosplay is not consent” message is a good start, I like seeing that all over the place. I hope that the demographic shift is helping, NYCC used to be something like a 3 to 1 male to female ratio. It’s much more even now and it feels like it. I don’t know, I hope it gets better. A con should be the safest place in the world to put on a costume and not get harassed. You have to just keep shining the light on bad behavior so people don’t feel free to act like scumbags.
CC2K: Tom thank you for speaking with us.
Poison Ivy & Harley Quinn: Lillydubs
Magneto: please contact cc2k
Gary is a husband, father, fireman, comic reader, gamer, body builder, and rocker. He also is a co-owner of a bakery in upstate NY. He likes to tell everyone his favorite band is the Beatles, when his actual favorite band is the Alkaline Trio.