Characters & CosplayPhotographs by Elena Dorfman
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In Fandomania, photographer Elena Dorfman examines the pop culture phenomenon of "cosplay," in which participants dress up in costumes—and live part of their lives—as characters from video games, animated films, and Japanese graphic novels.
This exploding subculture flourishes at convention centers, college dorms, private clubs, and in homes across the country. Dorfman puts herself quietly behind the scenes of these fan-based events to create a remarkable collective portrait. As she describes it, "The theater of cosplay has no boundaries, is unpredictable, open-ended. It includes both the fantastic and the mundane, the sexually aberrant and innocent, female characters who become samurai warriors and brainy scientists, and male characters who magically change their sex." Explorations of identity through portraiture are at the forefront of Dorfman's work, with the blurred lines between fantasy and reality a continuing theme. She allows each individual a spotlight in which to enact their fantasy. The effect is pointedly evocative of this new world of role playing and narrative, one in which scenery is secondary and persona is everything.
Elena Dorfman was raised in Boston and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared in the Village Voice, International Herald Tribune, Art and Auction, and Artweek. Her series, Still Lovers, appeared in museum and gallery exhibitions internationally and is the subject of two monographs. An exhibition of the Fandomania work appeared at the Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York, to coincide with the release of the Aperture monograph Fandomania: Characters & Cosplay. The artist lives in New York and San Francisco.