For London-based street photographer Chris Lee, the most interesting part of Comic-Con isn’t what’s inside the convention hall, but what’s outside of it.
Trawling the sterile corridors outside the famed event at the Excel Centre in London, Lee framed the eccentrically dressed almost as though surrounded by the white walls of an asylum.
Lonely souls or soul mates, the isolated characters out of context exist inside some sort of comic limbo, adding a tense atmosphere to these candid moments.
We recently got a hold of Lee and asked him more about the series.
Where did you get the idea of capturing cosplayers during their most candid of moments?
“It wasn’t until I was at the event that I found the most interesting part was outside, where fans dressed up as their favourite superheroes were hanging around like teenagers at a shopping mall. As a bit of an outsider to the whole sub-culture, I could only revel in the absurdity of being surrounded by alien lifeforms. To describe it, it felt a bit like a real life episode of Futurama, where humans, robots, aliens and characters from Star Wars live alongside each other.
“Shooting candidly allows me to catch people at their most natural, where subjects are completely unaware of the camera. In this way, it was interesting to explore the people behind the masks rather than the characters they were playing.”
Did you intentionally go to the convention to shoot the series, or was it spur of the moment?
“This probably sounds weird but I intentionally went to photograph people. I was way more interested in what motivates people to dress up as fictional characters than the event itself. My photography is really a means to explore this.”
Which photo struck you the most and why?
“I was particularly attracted to this scene with the couple sitting on the floor against a red wall. The large corridors around the event were particularly sparse which takes the couple out of context, placing them in some sort of comic book limbo. Loitering around with an underlying tension to meet and find friends or even lovers, I like to think that these two met here and a mismatch of characters a comment on their awkwardness together.
“I am also fond of the girl with green hair. The chairs and litter remind me of a meeting at alcoholics anonymous or a mental asylum shortly after something might have kicked off.”
When it comes to street photography, what’s your creative process? What’s your criteria for capturing subjects and situations?
“Firstly, to have something to say with every image. In regards to taking the photo, I like to think that there is always an optimum angle and distance to best capture a scene. I get a rush from hitting that mark but inevitably you win some and you lose some and I imagine it’s different for a lot of people.
“With my current style, I like to stay wide to involve the environment and draw in any elements that might contribute to a story.
“I’ve always loved those shots in films when the camera comes out wide for comical effect or a certain poignancy. There is always this chance for the viewer to analyse the situation and I find these moments the most engaging in respect to photography.”
What’s your best advice for aspiring street photographers?
“Different cameras can alter the way you shoot. Find out what works for you depending on what you want to achieve.
“Join an online community, discover what you really like, always evaluate what you are doing, shoot every day and keep at it!”
What project are you working on next?
“Aside keeping my Instagram active @street.eye, I plan to revisit the next Comic-Con event next month in London to continue the series.
“I am also in progress of launching a new photo book shot in Ghana called ‘Gold Dust’ with Tripod City. This photo collective joins me, Charlie Kwai and Paul Storrie at a different country each year, in efforts to capture modern culture from three different perspectives.
“We have an exhibition planned with wall-sized prints, new film work and street photo workshops at Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes in Shoreditch, London this June. You can visit the Tripod City website or follow the Instagram page for more info.”