April 2018 Featured Artist: Houkakyou

Hi all! I'm Kenna, a costumer and photographer from the DC area currently residing in Rhode Island. I'm honored that Trickssi asked me to be the first featured crafter, and I hope that you find me interesting!

I've always loved dressing up, so the first time I went to a con I was completely blown away that there were people doing real, non-digital things to honor the characters and stories they loved. (You guys are awesome!) I started out cosplaying and then branched into photography; I do both fifty-fifty now, and it's always fun to see who follows me for my sewing and who follows me because I might take a photo of them... ;)

I've always cosplayed more to wear fancy clothes than to be a character. I started out in fandom as an artist and loved designing clothing for characters, so it probably follows that what I love most about sewing is bringing my original designs to life. Most of them are for the Tolkien fandom, which I'm immensely proud to be part; because the Silmarillion has never been adapted, the community tends to be very excited for and accepting of original designs. Of course, my main interest now is historical costuming, and I often insert aspects of it into my original designs. Costume history is my way of bringing together my hobby and my academic interests as a graduate student. (Ask me about corsets - I dare you!) Sewing is such good stress relief.

I love cosplay photography, on the other hand, because I can show people how amazing they look through my eyes. I wasn't intending to start up a second (time consuming!) aspect of this hobby, but I realized that I loved it just as much as sewing. My past experience as a digital artist had taught me basic Photoshop skills and an eye for composition, so with some basics down, I started learning by doing. My own self-consciousness issues meant that I tried get people from their best possible angles instead of just the shot that looked good to me, which is something I've continued to carry through with over the years.

As a photographer who also consistently cosplays, I definitely have insight on how the model feels (and vice versa). Many photographers don't grasp that there's a large gap between what a photog thinks is a good picture and what the cosplayer wants out of it. It's obviously easier to meet both needs when you know the model well, but with con bookings that's only sometimes possible. (I am glad that I took up photography in the end, because aside from the artistic satisfaction I get from it, shooting at cons provides the funding for my costumes.)

I do prefer to shoot on location; the shots that I can get with friends out in nature are always much better than anything that I can get at cons, so my photography ads and pricing are based on my convention standard. (Fellow photogs: I am side-eyeing you HARD if your photo ads are your absolute best shots and you can't guarantee that to anyone who books you.) I love doing hall shots at cons despite the conditions, since I meet so many new and fantastic costumers. Please - if you see me at a convention, come say hi! I promise that I'm at least as awkward as you are, and there's a good chance I'll take your picture. :)

Cosplay and cos photography have helped me immensely in not only learning how to interact with people, but also accepting that it is A-okay to go up to someone you've never met and tell them that they look amazing. Next time you're at a con and you see someone you think is awesome - tell them! I'll be proud of you.

Happy travels! I'll be at Anime Boston, All-Star Comic Con, Otakon, Granite State Comic Con, and Rhode Island Comic Con this year.

Featured Cosplays

Characters/Photographers (left to right, top to bottom): Thuringwethil, by Adam Myers | Earwen, Ethereous Photography | Victorian version of Melisandre, by Harback Photography | Melian, by Roger Roberts

Photography by Houkakyou
Click on each image to visit Kenna's Facebook page.

Models (left to right, top to bottom): Life of Cosplay | Sennedjem Cosplay (Zevran Arainai) | Becky Taka Cosplay | Oldgrumpycosplay (Theoden with simbelmynë) | Oldgrumpycosplay (Hippolyta) | A Marvelous Maven (Poison Ivy) | Orisen Cosplay (Link)

From Trickssi:

I had the pleasure of meeting Kenna at Otakon 2016. Niho and Tomoyo had taken photos with her at Katsu/MAG earlier that year and although I wasn't into the series they shot, I knew there was something special about those photos. Niho described it as "cinematic portraiture," and I couldn't agree more.

We shot Tales of Berseria together on the day of its launch in Japan, and that has to have been one of my favorite shoots of all time. It was one of the hottest, most humid days in Baltimore, and one of the hottest Otakons I've experienced. We embarked on the U.S.S. Constellation with a small crew of dedicated friends as handlers. Starting at the bottom of the ship, we sweated and shot and worked our way up to the deck, where it started to rain. Along the way, her camera fell and damaged one of her lenses (which, I believe, she still hasn't replaced; I STILL FEEL TERRIBLE ABOUT THAT! I'd love to raise some money to get her new equipment.) And truly, we had no idea what we were doing. Right at the end of the shoot, someone said "let's take fake sexy photos!" The resulting shot(s) of my Velvet were my main profile pic for almost a year and a half! What I love about that shot is that she flattered my makeup as well as my face, and framed my poorly-made version 1 costume as best as it could be flattered in frame.

My favorite overall shoot was the one I requested for the D Team/Zero Time Dilemma group we had Sunday of MAGFest 2017. It was a costume and group I was a little nervous to debut, even if it meant a lot to me. She worked with me through my extensive reference shots to recreate as many shots as we could over our extended session, including in-jokes and spoilers. Her attention to detail and mood continue to astound me! I still need to purchase a bunch of those photos for her to edit. It's still my favorite shoot in all my three and a half years of cosplay both because of the results and the fun time we had taking the photos.

I love Kenna's photos of me because even when I'm not feeling my best (see: the entirety of MAGFest 2018, which occurred after about a year of PTSD symptoms hindering my cosplay work and ability to move my body), she still manages to flatter me. Even over the mood or recreation aspects, for me, cosplay photos that I love and reuse need to make me look better than I thought I could ever look as that character. She captures the essence of me-as-that-character, which is what cosplay is about, for me. I have immense respect for her point of view and I'm honored to be her subject!

And the best part of all? We finally got to cosplay together in a Kyou Kara Maoh group at MAGFest this year! Our characters didn't have much interaction, but I did manage to scare Günter's intensely gay self with Lady Celi's milf vibes. I also tried my hand at photographing her... not seriously, but she looked so funereal that I couldn't resist.

By the way, Kenna's also an incredible seamstress. Her walk-around videos on Facebook and Insta where she shows off her work? So inspiring! I don't know if I'll ever understand construction and the history of garment-making nearly as much as she does. When it comes to dresses especially, Kenna's page is like porn. You really haven't lived until you've seen one of her Tolkien originals in person!

If you'd like to tip Kenna for her work and help her create even more excellent cosplay and photography, buy her a ko-fi! Keep an eye out for her shoot openings at conventions or contact her if you'd like to schedule a location shoot!

If we've worked together and you'd like to be a featured photographer or cosplayer, please let me know! I can provide questions for you to answer or you can tell your story like Kenna did above. You can always reach me at contact@trickssi.com.

You can find more of Kenna's art on Facebook, Tumblr, & Instagram.

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