As part of this years Contact Festival in Leeds I’m going to be exhibiting my final photographic project for my BA which is entitled ‘In Character. The festival’s going to be running between 16th and 25th of May throughout the city center so if you can make it down you should definitely come and check out the work on show.
As part of my ongoing fascination with geek culture the aim of In Character is to focus on the escapism of our hobbies and LARPing in particular. Thanks to the gracious and fantastic people at GOSH I’ve been shooting them for a couple of months now while they play out their campaigns. The entire project was very much inspired by this this quote from Simon Pegg:
“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”
Pegg articulates something I think is central to geek culture and the people who engage in it. I count myself among them and proudly so because while the mainstream may frown at our antics or admonish us for being childish, there’s a very simple but very fundamental happiness to be had from just having shameless fun and emoting about something you’re passionate about. Like the dolls and their owners I photograph and countless other hobbies LARPing is about escapism, it’s about putting the real world aside for a little while and engaging the imagination.
While there’s a whole lot more to the LARP world that I’ve yet to experience I’m thankful for the glimpse I’ve had so far as well as the chance to engage with such a fascinating group of people. Often, the prevailing stereotype of a geek is a quiet, awkward, basement dwelling thirty something who hasn’t grown out of his teens and while I’m sure people like this exist the vast majority of people I’ve encountered in the LARP community as well as the BJD and comic collect worlds represent a broad spectrum of personalities, ages, relationships and so on.
Things like the recent reboot of the Star Trek franchise and the success of movies like the Batman trilogy, Avengers and Captain America have gone a long way to bringing characters and stories that where once reserved for nerds to the collective embrace of a mainstream audience, the fantasy and escapism these movies provide on a mass scale has been embraced by Table top playing, role play writing, action figure collecting geeks for decades. Perhaps it’s the extreme to which we take our passion that raises eyebrows but there’s very little difference at the end of the day between loosing oneself in a book and running around the woods with a replica sword, except maybe a few bruises. My only hope is that my photographs go some way to communicating this idea, that geeks and their escapism is no different from anyone else’, it’s all about loosing oneself in the moment and just having ab it of shameless fun. I guess we’ll see.