Last Sunday I got all dolled up (no pun intended) and hung out with some fellow Southern Ontario Lolitas at the aquarium downtown Toronto. Turns out that our group was just as much of an exhibit as all the fishies. It was an interesting exercise in seeing and being seen - I was having flashbacks to Barthes' Camera Lucida. Here are a few images from the excursion.
This month has been kawaii af.
I've had the pleasure of photographing some of the most down-to-earth, welcoming and stylish people I've met in ages. After all, they'd have to be, if they let me into their homes.
For some it wasn't the first time they've had me gazing at them through a lens, since I've crossed paths with a few of these lolitas at conventions last summer while roaming around on other projects.
Ryan was one of them. Speaking with him gave me perspective on how much preparation it takes to get ready to go out in lolita when you've got the added challenge of feminizing your features - prepping the skin alone can be a multi-day process. As another lolita pointed out to me that day, he was decked out in Brand with a capital B. I didn't notice the cursive on the hemline at first - Moi-même-moitié is the O.G. gothic lolita clothing line started by the one and only visual-kei god, Mana.
Brittani was the first person to let me shoot in her place, or as her dad calls it, The Pink Palace. Her living room features a perfectly-organized bookshelf of manga, a plethora of video games and blu-rays, a glass cabinet containing her figurine collection (Hatsune Miku & Madoka were a couple notable characters) and enough plushies to replace my bed with. Oh, and did I mention she has a Hello Kitty toaster that actually puts Hello Kitty's face on your toast!? Needless to say, it would be my dream Airbnb spot.
After the shoots with Brittani and Ryan that morning, we headed to the meetup at Chocolat on James. At first it was overrun by ice-cream-stained kids and their parents, but eventually we claimed a section of tables and for the first time, I had a moment to sit down and converse at length with a group about their experiences with the fashion. I basked in the knowledge that was laid on me about various trends that have come and gone and are coming back again. For those who don't know, chunky black and white lace frocks from Bodyline aren't usually a good idea, and it's a bit passé to sport a miniature carousel or an arrangement that looks like dessert on your head. Despite the fact that all of us were strangers when we first walked in, we decided to hang out a little longer and go to Hamilton's most charming loitering spot - Jackson Square!
Did killing time at the mall make me feel like I was in high school again? Yes.
Did I find that fun despite being a grown woman? Yes.
Did people heckle the frill squad on the street? No, actually. Some people stared, of course, but those who spoke to us all had really nice things to say. Their faces lit up as if a group of unicorns were trotting past the Tim Horton's right before their very eyes.
A few of us headed to the Baltimore House for a beer and/or grilled cheese sandwich. Loli ended up getting absorbed into a booth of curious locals to educate them about Lolita culture and generally deliver his life story (like I said, they were an inquisitive bunch). Worried, we offered to rescue him but he assured us he was fine - we learned he has a lot more patience dealing with talkative strangers than the average lolita.
As the night drew to a close, Erika posed for a quick photo op for Closet of Frills - it's a group where lolitas all over the world/internet can post a picture of their daily coordinate and share constructive criticism - or 'concrit,' as it were - on how to improve their looks.
Erika said a couple things that evening that I felt really hit the nail on the head about what it means to be involved in the fashion.* Both statements made me smile.
The first was that lolita is for fashion nerds. She also said that to wear lolita means to aggressively exist.
Here, here! I think that those are two things worth celebrating.
You can find my final portrait series, Lolitas at Home, in the March 2017 (Canadian) issue of VICE Magazine.
*This is my summary, though, so I may have fudged the exact wording.
I just wanted to take a moment to extend my thanks to everyone who I photographed at Anime North this year. I was so taken by how receptive, warm and kind everyone I've met this past weekend has been. I will be going through the images soon and taking painstaking care to get them out there. Unfortunately I won't be able to post everything that I've shot here, but if you keep checking back and can't find something you're looking for, simply send me an email (remind me who you are!) and I'll do my best to get the shots to you as soon as possible.
Thanks again. I had a blast.
Back when I took a portrait of my lovely sister, Beth. I promise she usually smiles.
I always thought it was strange that anime and gaming conventions took place in hotels. The locations sometimes feel impersonal; their ballrooms expecting tall men in grey suits and tables with long white runners and company-purchased buffets.
Still, there's an odd glamour about it - a small swell of pride one feels when walking through thickly carpeted halls that are more full of giddy cosplayers than businessmen. The 16-year-old girl with her homemade costume might spend the night in the same bed that a guest speaker for some corporate event slept in a few days before, her heartbeat pressing into her throat.
Sure, it's all just walls and floors and ceilings. Its creamy antique palette was not designed to be the backdrop for the polyester colours of anime. But somehow, despite all that, the strange rooms become home for those they least expect.