Cosplay: Interview with Ger Tysk
A cosplayer since 2007, the multi-talented Ger Tysk works as a costumer, woodworker, photographer and seamstress. While she works with cosplayers across the American side of the community most often, she recently graced Canada with her presence by coming to Anime North 2014 as a cosplay guest, where GEEKPR0N got an exclusive interview with her!
On top of her already impressive repertoire of skills, Ger is also an author. She published a cosplay-inspired art book, called Breaking All the Rules: Cosplay and the Art of Self-Expression. The book features her photography of cosplayers from all over the United States along with interviews from each. I was able to catch up with her during Anime North and chat about her book and her own philosophy as a cosplayer and photographer.
What inspired you to publish Breaking All the Rules?
I was doing cosplay photography and I was kind of getting burned out on it, going to different cons. It’s hard doing photography at conventions: the hotel carpets are ugly, there’s always people in the background. And I thought, “Why am I doing this? Who’s going to see these photos?” And as a cosplayer what I came up with was your parents maybe, and your friends. So I felt that I was making a product that nobody’s gonna care about and nobody’s gonna see. I looked at my hard drive full of these photos and it felt disheartening. So, I wanted to make a product that the cosplayer could look at, but also people who don’t know the hobby could be interested in and look at too.
What is your favourite thing about the cosplay community?
I really like cosplay because I can express myself. When I first started the book, people were like, “That doesn’t make sense, how are you expressing yourself by being someone else?” But there’s a reason we watch these shows and these anime movies – it’s because we identify ourselves with these characters we see. So I feel like by cosplaying you can become the character. That’s why I cosplay, to bring these characters to life in my own way and to mesh my personality with the costume I’m wearing. When I’m not in a costume, I’m just Ger. But when I’m in a costume, people recognize the character and that makes me feel good, that we can identify with the character.
Is there anything that you would want to change about cosplay and the community if you could?
Well, obviously I’d like to deal with all the negativity, but I think that comes with popularity, it’s mainstream. When you have a Sy-Fy reality show about cosplay, you know it’s mainstream. But I think what the community does with that will determine where it’ll go in the future. There’s been backlash against “famous cosplayers” or cosplayers who “only do it for popularity” or how some more well-known people aren’t “real cosplayers” – and I really don’t understand that. What is a real cosplayer? A real cosplayer is someone who puts on a costume. Do you exist, are you wearing a costume? There you go. I don’t care what you look like.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a cosplayer, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced is that I didn’t know how to sew. But if you buy your costumes, there’s nothing wrong with that. You can thrift your costumes, that’s how I started: I bought t-shirts, cut them up and stapled them together. Eventually I wanted to do costumes that you couldn’t buy, and I wanted to put my own spin on designs, and that’s when I realized I had to learn to sew. I see my friends who are amazing at sewing and it takes them an hour what takes me six hours. I hate sewing, but I put up with it so that I can wear the costume, which is the most fun part!
Do you have any advice that you’d want to share with cosplayers out there?
My big thing is cosplay because you want to. I see so many people saying they want to quit for whatever reason. I think there’s no shame in quitting, it’s just like any other hobby. What if i like fishing and all of a sudden don’t like it anymore? Then you don’t have to fish. When I see people say “I’m quitting cosplay” their friends will go, “But why would you do that, cosplay is so important!” – but I say don’t do it if you’re tired of it, and if you don’t love it and if you’re not into it, because then all you’re doing is spending thousands of dollars. If you’re doing it just because your friends are, you’ll burn out. And I did burn out for a while. So I want to tell people it’s okay to step back. I’ve thought about quitting, and I can come back to it. If you suddenly decided you liked fishing again you could keep doing it.
Do you have a long term goal as an artist?
Well, I have a lot of books that need to be sold. I paid for the book out of my own pocket and I’m still in debt. I’m almost out, but selling books is hard. People at anime conventions will say the book is too expensive, but then buy five body pillows. I’ve been looking for my niche of people who like cosplay, like books, and would want to own a book about cosplay.
When you’re looking for cosplayers to photograph, what sort of things do you look for; what draws you to the people you work with?
The biggest thing that draws me to a cosplayer is if they’re proud of their costume. I see so many young cosplayers who slouch and act really shy and socially awkward, which I understand. I am too, we all are. But I like to see people trying to portray the character, like taking their posture and stances and trying to get in character. You don’t have to be totally in character talking like them all day, but when you’re being photographed, it’s very important to think about being the character, or doing poses they would do. And it’s a lot easier for me as a photographer.
What was the process like for publishing your book?
I self-published. I crowdfunded, to cover the cost of travelling to conventions for photography. I dealt with a printing company from California who outsourced the printing to Hong Kong. I wanted to print in America, but it was half as much to print overseas – I’m self-publishing and sadly I’m not a millionaire.