Nerd Caliber
Nerd Lifestyle Magazine

Cosplay & Style

August 8, 2012

Interview with Ger Tysk: Author of “Breaking All the Rules: Cosplay and the Art of Self-Expression”


Kiera Vallone interviews cosplay photographer Ger Tysk about her book she is working on called Breaking All the Rules: Cosplay and the Art of Self-Expression. Find out here why this book will interest any cosplayer (and how you can support its release)!

1) What made you want to publish a cosplay photography book? What goal are you hoping to achieve in creating this book?

I’ve been cosplaying since 2007, which I think was the beginning of the “cosplay boom” in the US – when cosplay really started to hit the “mainstream,” so to speak, in nerd culture. Before that, there were a lot of people writing fanfiction and drawing fanart, and that was fairly mainstream, but you only really saw cosplay at conventions. With Facebook and deviantArt and Tumblr and all these social networking sites that allow people to share photos and ideas, cosplay really has exploded, and I’ve gotten to see photos of cosplayers all over the world and met a lot of people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, even from within the US. I started really becoming interested in why people cosplayed, how they heard about cosplay, and what their motivations were for cosplaying; was it because their friends were cosplaying, or they just really liked conventions, or they were fashion students who got into it, or their parents were Trekkies who did costuming in the 60s and 70s? That, plus the fact that I’d lately been doing a ton of cosplay photography made the idea for the book pop into my head. I wanted to make a book that meshed cosplay photos with interviews of cosplayers, so the reader could really get a sense of that person’s life “behind the mask” so to speak.

2) When did you get into photography in general, and when did you start doing cosplay photography?

I’ve been interested in photography for a long time, but I only really started seriously getting into it in 2010. I got my first nice camera that year, and then in 2011 I upgraded to a DSLR. Before then it was all little point and shoots and those paper Kodak disposable cameras that weren’t so great. I guess I realized that I wanted to do photography after cosplaying for a while and seeing all the neat poses you could come up with.

Photo of Ger Tysk as Shiva from Final Fantasy X by Kiera Vallone

3) When did you start cosplaying, and what got you started?

I made my first costumes in 2006 and my first actual convention was Anime Boston 2007. I was really into Final Fantasy VII at the time, and a couple of my friends online who were also into it were cosplayers, so I decided to join their Final Fantasy group. That group ultimately ended up not working out, sadly, but I don’t think they cosplay anymore, whereas I got really into it.

4) What is your favorite costume of yours, and why?

I’d have to say either Shadow from Final Fantasy VI or Berserker Yuna from Final Fantasy X-2. Yuna is just really fun and colorful and everyone recognizes the Berserker dressphere. Shadow, on the other hand, is my favorite character from my favorite game, so I really enjoy cosplaying him even if he’s not nearly as recognizable as Yuna.

5) What’s your favorite convention that you attend, and why?

I’ve always loved Otakon. It’s hot, and it’s gotten super crowded, but it will always be my favorite convention just because it was the first time I saw so many amazing costumes in one place. Even though Anime Boston was my first con, I only went for a day, so my first big con experience was Otakon. There are always so many brilliant cosplayers at Otakon, especially on Saturday, when everyone brings out their fanciest costumes. I remember being really inspired.

6) What’s one convention you’re looking forward to attending for the first time on your travels for this project? Why?

A California convention! I haven’t decided which one I’m going to yet – I have to pick between Anime Los Angeles, Fanime, and Anime Expo, and that depends on my con schedule for the rest of the year next year which I haven’t worked out yet. But California cons seem like so much fun, and I know so many West Coast cosplayers who I haven’t been able to meet because we each stick to our own respective coasts, so I’m hoping I’ll get to talk to a lot of people who I only know from online.

7) Tell me about the reactions you’ve been getting from cosplayers/people when they hear about this project.

It’s been really amazingly and overwhelmingly positive. Initially I was afraid that some people might think I was trying to copy Cosplay in America, but so many people have been excited about it and encouraging. Even my friends who aren’t familiar with cosplay have been supportive. When I tell people about it I try to be as sincere as I can about why I’m doing it, what the project is, and why I need support. I think there’s a real opportunity to reach out to non-cosplayers with a book like this and I’m hoping that some of them will buy it.

8 ) I know you reached out to Ejen, the guy behind Cosplay In America before embarking on this project – what kind of advice/comments did he give you?

Well, it’s funny. I sent him a short email asking him a few questions about logistical issues he might have encountered with his book, and he wrote me a long, long email back telling me that writing a book was a time and money sink and basically that I was making a mistake by doing it. He had to finance his venture through money he’s been having to pay back (credit cards, etc) so he warned me against that. It’s the reason that I decided to try and raise at least a little bit of money through crowdfunding. I talked to him again at Otakon – he did a short interview with me, actually – and he still thinks I’m crazy, but he’s also been incredibly supportive and has been telling people about me and handing out my business cards. I really have to thank him for everything.

9) In the cosplayer interviews you’ve done so far, have you come across any surprising/unusual stories/people? Such as someone having a day job where you wouldn’t expect them to cosplay as a hobby, or a compelling reason why they got into cosplay/etc.

Well, obviously every cosplayer is unique, but there have definitely been a few standouts. For some people it’s a fun hobby, and for some people, cosplay is more of a job or even a way of life. One of the most interesting things to me is how far people will go financially to cosplay, even if it means they’re eating instant ramen every day for 6 months. A lot of people I’ve interviewed are still in school and work part-time, so they’re not making a ton of money, but they manage to make it work. I’ve heard a lot of stories where cosplay helped people come out of their shell, gain more confidence, and overcome depression.

One of the most inspirational people I had the honor to interview was Misa on Wheels, who is a staple in the New England cosplay scene. She lost the use of her legs and hands when she was a child and gets around in a wheelchair, but that doesn’t stop her from cosplaying, going to conventions, and making friends, and spreading the message that anyone can cosplay.

10) What are your plans for promoting the book once it’s published?

The book is going to be published in a limited run of probably 1000 copies or less, so in that sense I don’t have to do the huge amount of promotion that Ejen had to do for Cosplay in America. I definitely plan to hit a few major cons around the country to sell it, as well as sell it on Amazon. The Facebook page, blog, and Twitter feed will continue to be updated all through the process – I don’t see the book coming out until the end of 2013 at the very earliest, since I have so many cons to go to and then I have to compile all the interviews and put the book design together. I’m doing a ton of interviews and not everyone who I interview can be in the book since I’ve got limited page space. But once I’ve picked the people who will be included in the final book, everyone else’s photos and interviews will get featured individually on the blog/Facebook page, so hopefully that will be a good way for people to find out about the book if they haven’t heard of it before.

11) Pick three of your favorite cosplay photos that you’ve taken, and tell me why they’re one of your favorites.

It’s hard to pick just three!!

1 – This image of Dramaya as Summoner Yuna [Final Fantasy X] was shot at Katsucon 2012 on the water. I intially didn’t even use this shot in my final gallery because I didn’t like the angle, but a couple of months later I was going back through my photos for any “diamonds in the rough” and happened to rediscover it. I think it gives the illusion of flying, with the ripples of the water in the background and the wind moving through the sleeves.

2 – Brittany as Konan [Naruto]. I shot this at Otakon 2012. Naruto is considered by a lot of people to be overcosplayed, but I’ve been a long-time Naruto fan and I always am looking for new ways to interpret the series. I did 5 takes to get this shot, with two assistants, one on either side, throwing armfuls of paper feathers I had cut out the week before the convention. The worst part for them was that after every take they had to gather the feathers back up.

3 – Kat as Toph Bei Fong [Avatar: The Last Airbender]. I think this shot perfectly captures Toph’s personality for even someone who’s never seen the show, and the color palette and the background plants works perfectly with the costume.

For updates and more information on Ger’s photobook project, you can ‘Like’ the book’s page on Facebook – If you want to contribute to her Indiegogo campaign, head on over to

About the Author

Kiera Vallone


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