Rendezvous with Subversive Photography

DragonCon 2014: It was 3:00 am Sunday morning, and I was still wearing the “Abbey” costume from an event hours earlier.  Making my way back to my room across the (much less crowded than usual) lobby of the Hyatt, a gentleman with a camera politely approached and asked for permission to take a few photographs.  It’s always a kindness (and a compliment) when someone asks, so I stopped and joined him for a few photos. He took his time setting up the angles and finding just the right perspectives. And I watched him work. He thanked me for my time and I thanked him for his interest and the kind attention. I hoped that after the event, we might reconnect so I could see the resulting images – but with an event as chaotic as DragonCon, you just never know.

Warhammer inspired Stained Glass "Abbey' photographed by Subversively.com

Warhammer inspired Stained Glass “Abbey’ photographed by Subversively.com

His name was Lievan Leroy of San Francisco-based Subversively.com and his image of “Abbey” DID pop up later that month. And it kind of exploded on social media. I saw Lievan’s image begin trending on Tumblr. And when my CostumeArt Facebook Page suddenly acquired a thousand followers overnight, I tracked that growth back to Lievan’s lobby photo of Abbey, which had been picked up (thanks to Galacticat) and shared by the Replica Props Forum Facebook page. The response was overwhelmingly positive. I think that both the photographer and I were surprised that our impromptu collaboration in the wee hours of DragonCon would find so many eyeballs. What a great compliment!

DragonCon 2015: I got a message from Lievan asking if I would like to meet up at DragonCon for another photo opportunity. I had a new costume project with me, and while it was not complete, I was very excited to see what Lievan would do with it.

After some text tagging and missed connections, we finally met again in the drive-thru at the Marriott Marquis. Crowded with people and cars, the odds of finding any spot with solitude was unlikely. So we opted to back up against the fountain and try our luck.  Even with the odd lighting and distracting environment, Lievan turned all of his attention to crafting images of “Merry McQueen”, an original CostumeArt project inspired by the work of Alexander McQueen.

When I got to see the images from this DragonCon shoot and I’m simply AMAZED at his ability to create the impression that we were isolated while making these photos.  With his lighting and perspectives, he’s crafted images that almost evoke a sense of desolation.  In truth, there were tipsy cosplayers and loud crowds just a few feet away from us, cars and vans were cycling behind Lievan as he worked, and the lip of the fountain was just inches behind my heels. He created an eye in the storm and produced these lovely photographs amid the madness!

Thank you Lievan Leroy of  Subversively.com for sharing your talents with me again. You, Sir, are made of magic. (We have to keep meeting like this!)

Paige Gardner Costume Merry McQueen Steampunk Subversively Photography DragonCon 4

“Merry McQueen” photographed by Subversively.com at DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

"Merry McQueen" photographed by Subversively.com at DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia.

“Merry McQueen” photographed by Subversively.com at DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia.

Paige Gardner Costume Merry McQueen Steampunk Subversively Photography DragonCon 3

“Merry McQueen” photographed by Subversively.com at DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Abbey at Sloss Furnace: Photoshoot with Dim Horizon Studios

I’ve often say that any costume project of mine isn’t really complete until the folks at Dim Horizon Studios turn their lens toward it. It’s a true thing.

I’m always excited by their interest in these costume projects, thrilled with their keen eye for outstanding settings and – after years of working with them – deeply grateful for the close personal friendship that emerged from our mutual professional interests.  I’m especially glad when they have client bookings in my city – because these occasions bring us together for gaming, goofing off, good times…  and sometimes a photoshoot!

These are the first official images of the Stained Glass “Abbey” project as captured and crafted by Dim Horizon Studio at Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama. (this is the first half of the images from the shoot – the second set will follow in the next post.)

And the costume is now complete. 😀

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 8

 

 

Costume: "Abbey" by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner
Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 4

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

 

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 2

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 5

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 6

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 7

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 8

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 9

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 11

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 12

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 13

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 14

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 15

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 10

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner  Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 3

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

For more images, events and WIP costume updates, find me at CostumeArt on Facebook and @CostumeArt on Twitter. I’d love to see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glomp Magazine: Interview with Paige Gardner of CostumeArt

I had the distinct pleasure of being interviewed by Glomp Magazine in late 2014. I always appreciate the opportunity to answer questions that also give me the chance to peel back some layers on why this hobby has such a magnificent hold on me.  They also selected for inclusion some of my absolute favorite images, include one from my very first ‘real’ photo shoot.

Here’s a link to the full article: GLOMP Magazine: Interview with Paige Gardner of CostumeArt

John Strangeway and Paige Gardner at Sloss Furnace | Photography by Dim Horizon Studios |

John Strangeway and Paige Gardner at Sloss Furnace | Photography by Dim Horizon Studios |

Check out Glomp Magazine on Facebook to enjoy more of their features on cosplay and the folks who pursue the costuming dream!

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For current event news, WIP updates and more photos, find CostumeArt on Facebook and @CostumeArt on Twitter. I’d love to see you there!

The “Wheel of Time” Community Responds to Bullying: And It’s Awesome

Wheel of Tme Cosplay | Photo by Dim Horizon Studios

Wheel of Tme Cosplay | Photo by Dim Horizon Studios

It’s a natural thing for fans of books, movies, comics, television shows and more to gravitate toward each other – especially via social media – to share their passion, their fandom, for the entertainment that means something special to them. Some fandoms are huge and well-known,  others are more esoteric, but just as enthusiastic when it comes to their media jam.

There’s no secret that I’m a dedicated fan of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” book series. I have a personal history with the books that became a touchstone for two decades of my life. I’ve celebrated my fandom through WOT cosplay, as well as trips to JordanCon and other WOT-related events. And I totally get that the books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But that doesn’t diminish MY enthusiasm for the literary world that Jordan (with later support for Brandon Sanderson) crafted. And I’m not alone.

Ashaman and Aiel | Photo by Dim Horizon Studios

Ashaman and Aiel | Photo by Dim Horizon Studios

There’s other people who feel the same way I do about the “Wheel of Time” (WOT for short) world. We’re not a massive army of fans that dominate the mainstream media channels, but a strong, dedicated and constant group of enthusiasts who connect at conventions, events and especially through social media. It’s a legitimate community of folks spread across the world and joined by their love of these books. We connect and communicate through various websites, forums and importantly…through the Wheel of Time group on Facebook.

On the Wheel of Time Facebook group page it’s not unusual for us to ponder which character we might like to cosplay. Yeah, we sometimes “dream cast” celebrities who could best portray characters from the books. And sure, there are sometimes spoilers for newcomers to trip over in some threads. We geek on WOT.

Sometimes we wonder who WE would be in the WOT world. And that’s okay, too.

Of course, human dynamics are present everywhere – even in a community like ours. And our corner of the social media landscape was probably overdue for trolling. None-the-less, it was disappointing to see it finally play out when one group member simply posted their own picture and asked “Who would I be in the Wheel of Time?” – and was subsequently trolled and bullied in the comments.

The page admins pulled the post. But what followed was one of the most inspiring and redemptive things I’ve ever witnessed in fandom.

In response to the earlier bullying, WOT group members began posting photos of themselves asking “Who would I be in the Wheel of Time?” with the hashtag #WOTme.

Wheel of Time Party in Chattanooga TN

Wheel of Time Party in Chattanooga TN

It’s important to understand that for many folks within literary fandom, posting a selfie via social media isn’t necessarily an easy thing. Putting yourself out there, asking for others to comment on how they see you – that takes some courage. What started  a trickle of group members taking the #WOTme plunge, turned into a flood of group members from every corner of the world – posting their faces and asking “Who would I be in the Wheel of Time?”.

The responses have been positively overwhelming as well. Drawing from the massive list of WOT characters, the suggestions pouring in on each photo have ranged from the series superstars to obscure bit players (and trust me, we KNOW the bit players in Wheel of Time).

And, who knew we had so many gingers among us? Those sneaky Aiel.

In one day, a group that was previously connected only through their enthusiasm for a book series, transformed into a real community, coming out from the group shadows and joining together to take a public stand against bullying. My Facebook feed is blowing up with the faces of my fellow WOT fans – and it’s kind of glorious. I think that every fandom, great or small, should pay attention what has happened today in the Wheel of Time community. It’s a testament to power of positivity within the ranks of fandom (and also illustrates how the Light really can triumph over the Dark. Sorry, I had to add that.)

I’ve never been more proud of my corner of fandom than I am today. I think Robert Jordan would be proud, too.

THEIR QUESTION: “Who would I be in the Wheel of Time?” #WOTme

MY ANSWER: “You would be awesome. Just like you are now. That’s what you’d be.”

 

 

The Stained Glass Costume Project: “Abbey” at DragonCon

Photography by Marcus Taylor | DragonCon 2014

Photography by Marcus Taylor | DragonCon 2014

Starting with a stack of thrift store coloring books, the “Abbey” costume project is easily the most labor-intensive and difficult task I’ve taken on.  So much…coloring. Seriously, I colored like manic five-year-old for weeks. Now, just the sight of a child’s crayon-ready placemat at Denny’s gives me the shivers.

Inspired by the outsized world of Warhammer 40K Adeptus Ministorum and influenced by Art Nouveau style, this costume evolved with my traditional tool kit of thrift store elements, no-sew shortcuts… tiny investement but lots of persistence.  It’s worth noting that I actually measured some things for this project (with a real measuring tape), which I consider a significant leap forward on my “things I can do” list. I’ll be posting the build background on the “Abbey” project pretty soon.

Abbey stepped out for the first time at DragonCon in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend.  And I had a fantastic time with this costume!  Convention-goers, friends and photographers were very kind – and happily, there’s a pretty good photo record from the event of her progress. The following images are Convention photos taken at DragonCon and I’m especially grateful to the photographers credited here (pros and amateurs alike!). Thank you to everyone who took a minute talk with me and help preserve the memories!

Photo by Richard LaMarre | DragonCon 2014

Photo by Richard LaMarre | DragonCon 2014

 

Photo by Angry Dog Studios | DragonCon 2014

Photo by Angry Dog Studios | DragonCon 2014

Photography by Marcus Taylor | DragonCon 2014

Photography by Marcus Taylor | DragonCon 2014

Photography by Jessica Stansel | DragonCon 2014 | Stained Glass Costume by Paige Gardner

Photography by Jessica Stansel | DragonCon 2014 | Stained Glass Costume by Paige Gardner

Photography by David Leo | DragonCon 2014 | Stained Glass Costume by Paige Gardner (with Doctor Q)

Photography by David Leo | DragonCon 2014 | Stained Glass Costume by Paige Gardner (with Doctor Q)

Photography  by Thomas John Spanos | DragonCon 2014

Photography by Thomas John Spanos | DragonCon 2014

Photography by Richard LaMarre | DragonCon 2014

Photography by Richard LaMarre | DragonCon 2014

H. R. Giger | Saying Goodbye to a Visionary

The Alien | Model: Kearney Smith | Photography: Dim Horizon Studio

The Alien | Model: Kearney Smith | Photography: Dim Horizon Studio

Waking up to the news that H.R. Giger has passed away … changes everything.

Introduced to his visionary work in the early 1980’s, my first impression of his art was a distinct combination of compelling attraction … followed by a visceral instinct to recoil.  His bio-mechanical aesthetic that blended the organic shapes of a human form with elements of hardware and xenomorphic signatures had the powerful effect of pulling the viewer in just as it was pushing them away. Attractive and repellant. And brilliant.

H R Giger RIP Art

When I turned toward costume crafting as a serious indulgence, both my son and immediately decided to take on building an Alien costume (inspired by Giger’s art, from the ‘Aliens’ movie). It wasn’t built from scratch, but rather the pieces were cast from an outside vendor and shipped to us. We spent many months working on the latex forms; trimming, sanding, patching holes, painting, finishing and finally, figuring out exactly how these pieces could be assembled in such a way to be inhabited. And inhabited is the word.

The Alien isn’t something you wear. It’s an art form that you inhabit.

'Alien' | Model: Kearney Smith | Photography: Dim Horizon Studio

‘Alien’ | Model: Kearney Smith | Photography: Dim Horizon Studio

Giger’s brilliant design brings some of the same cache along with it in the 3-D form of a costume. Its sinuous lines, its glossy patina, its shocking symmetry and phallic undertones all combine to draw people forward… even while disconcerting elements within the work are suggesting ‘step back’. That’s powerful art. It’s a powerful costume to inhabit, as well.

And every costume art project I have attempted since the ‘Alien’ has been informed by Giger’s style, always striving to emulate Giger’s power to create that same ebb and flow. Draw them in, push them away. Danger couched in beauty. A perfect organism.

Alien | Model: Kearney Smith | Photography: Dim Horizon Studio

Alien | Model: Kearney Smith | Photography: Dim Horizon Studio

The costume  images here of the ‘Alien’ were photographed by Dim Horizon Studios at Sloss Furnace in Birmingham, Alabama. As enormous fans of Giger’s work themselves, Dim Horizon’s  view through their lens is clearly influenced by their own deep respect and personal appreciation for H.R. Giger’s signature style. And I think it shows in their work. The photographs move today, from a celebration of fandom to a visual memorial celebrating uncompromising artistic genius.

The man is gone. The art remains. The legacy is forever.

 

 

The Uncontested Weirdness of Vintage “Happy New Year” Postcards

With the new year on approach, these vintage “HAPPY NEW YEAR” postcard images deserve a second look. A double-take, really. What the actual hell was going on with New Years of yore?

The Danish know how to party like it's 1883. "Quick! Grab sausage, booze and pretzels! And skis!" This is all kinds of crazy.

Sausage, booze, pretzels, group ski. Apparently the Danish were rad AF in 1899.

 

Nothing says "Happy New Year" like gettin' boozy with the baby.

Resolution: Spend more time gettin’ boozy with the baby.

 

Charging into the new year on the back of a beetle. Because ...bugs?

Charging into the new year on the back of a beetle = goals.

 

Who wants to start the new year with a rain of champagne dropped from a zepplin by scary clown-apes. And cheap champagne, cause that bottle's HUGE.

Ringing in the new year with a rain of champagne dropped from a zeppelin full of clown-apes.

 

Raise your glass if you are five. WTH. Maybe baby-sitters were a 20th century thing.

Starting the New Year with a savage side-eye from your lit kid.

 

The gal isn't having a happy new year. She's four glasses in a giving a 'piss off' toast to her ex.

The gal’s four glasses in… and giving a ‘piss off’ toast to her ex. Or the previous year. Whatever. Piss off.

 

Running off the pigs of the previous year by beating them with shamrocks. Sounds legit.

Running off the previous year’s pigs by beating them with shamrocks.

 

Your previous year is at an end. The new year dawns. Prepare to be disciplined.

Your previous year is at an end. The new year dawns. Prepare to be disciplined.

 

The message: "If you get her drunk enough..." This guy's face just screams roofie.

An early example of vintage roofie face.

 

Why even send this card? Clearly your thirsty recipient would rather just have a damn bottle. Cheap ass.

Why even send this card? Clearly the thirsty recipient would rather just have a damn bottle. Cheap ass.

 

Happy New Year, Clumsy McButterfingers!

Happy New Year, Clumsy McButterfingers.

 

Wishing you a Happy New Year and Goose that spits money. Into a spitoon.

A New Year Goose that spits money. Into a spittoon. Why did this go away?

 

 

Let's see...a winged baby, a wicked scythe, an hourglass...and a box. Hmmm.. I'm thinking that time's running out and OMG!! What's in the BOX? What's in the BAHHH-XXxxx?

Winged baby, wicked scythe, an hourglass…and something awful in the New Year box? Probably 2016 in that box.

 

Maybe this vintage gem was sent by abstainers to their more festive friends to put them off their New Year's Eve drinking plans. HOwever, according to this image, he should be most afraid of the foot odor demons the next day. The person who sends this is not your friend.

Maybe this vintage gem was sent by abstainers to put friends off their New Year’s Eve drinking plans. However, according to this postcard, the foot odor is the real demon here.

 

This postcard's message seems pretty clear. "Hey 1888. Go die in a fire."

This postcard’s message seems pretty clear.
“Hey 1888. Go die in a fire.”  FACT: 1900’s sentiment, still timely in the 21st century.

 

Party on, vintage people. I like your New Year’s style.