It's been some time since we've last shot some cosplay photography. Especially I enjoy this genre of photography, as it feels to be part of a bigger story, a different person that is being photographed than the actual model - while the model themselves play an important part in creating the storytelling.
SurineCosplay is one of the most known cosplayers in Denmark. Her recent cosplays cover among others video game characters like Ciri (The Witcher 3), Tracer (Overwatch), Princess Peach (Super Mario) and other characters like Leeloo (The Fifth Element), Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and Poison Ivy. Go check out her work here!
In October 2021, I delved into the universe of D&D(›What is D&D?) in general, particularly through Critical Role(›Who is Critical Role?). It has since become a bit of an obsession: parallel-watching of campaign 2 and 3 while at the same time reading "Vox Machina Origins" and watching "The Legend of Vox Machina" could sometimes make me mix up timelines and plot arcs.
So when Surine shared the progress of her Critical Role cosplays, I definetely wanted to have a photoshoot with her!
The following post will not contain any big spoilers for campaign 3, but might mention smaller things that happen to the character or being revealed about her personality.
Re-creating the character of Imogen Temult
Imogen Temult is a character made up by voice actor Laura Bailey which she plays in the current D&D campaign of Critical Role. How does one have a photoshoot with a cosplayer of a character, that only lives in the head of the person that created it for a game, that most of the time had no or barely any visual aspects to it?
While the characters of these D&D campaigns are completely made up in the minds of the players, there are some (more or less) canon illustrations officially approved by Critical Role themselves. On top of that, there is a lot of fanart as fans imagine their favorite characters.
Imogen is described as followed by Laura:
A young lady with long, light purple hair, a yellow scarf around my neck.
I look a little bit-- Maybe shy, like I'm trying to hide myself from other people.
A light blue dress, just keeping myself tucked back a little bit and looking mildly uncomfortable as we rattle along.
Surine did a great job making the outfit, styling the wig and figuring out the make up following this description and officially approved art.
Then it was all about imagining scenes and situations that had only been described on the show.
Imogen Temult: soft spoken, thoughtful, but also fierce and troubled
Imogen's background is rooted in a smaller village, "a place with green fields of tall grass in a plateau valley" (source). She is introverted and quiet among too many other people and feels soothed and energized when the group leaves the city and spends time in nature.
This relief, the connection with nature and just general feeling of peace is something I wanted to recreate in our photos. Imogen's color palette feels bright and pastel, which is why we found some locations that supported that light and bright vibe. During location scouting, I searched for places with high flowers as I wanted Surine to be able to interact and connect with them. By shooting through them, they would also create big, soft bokeh and create the gentle, soft vibe Imogen can give off.
Imogen is also a capable sorcerer and will fiercely advocate for herself and her friends. She doesn't know the origins of her magic, but it is very impressive when she unleashes it.
Luckily, Surine was not afraid of using big movements and imagining herself being in tense combat situations. The challenging and part came afterwards: as someone who hasn't done a lot of composites and similar it was quite fun to figure out a way to visualize Imogen's magic.
Imogen is also troubled. Not only can she read the minds of the people around her, it actually costs her some effort to shut them out and not constantly be flooded with foreign thoughts. If she is surrounded by many people, this effort can become too much and take a serious toll on her.
She also suffers from bad nightmares that can almost be described as visions. These nightmares make her run in a panic while being surrounded by a violent, red storm.
I also wanted to photograph that side of Imogen. It felt chaotic and out of control compared to her usually being very poised and collected. I wanted to experiment with in-camera effects and not only Photoshop to get this chaotic feeling. Long shutterspeeds combined with rapid movement that would look different with every photo. Using a prism in front of the lens to break up the image for the effect of intrusive thoughts and piercing headaches.
These photos are not as sharp and not as well-framed, some of them might even look wrong and weird because of the shutterspeed. But thjs is what makes them feel right for me, this is how I imagine sweet Imogen feels when her world falls apart.
The last photos of this post are probably ones I would add a a mild spoiler warning to. They reference something happening in episode 17 of campaign 3.
They depict Imogen with the Feywild shard, an item looking almost like red glass that is occupying Imogen's mind in an unusual way and even makes her protect the pouch containing the shard while sleeping.
Check out Surine's various cosplays, tips and tricks on her social media:
Do you play D&D? What is your character like?
Do you also watch Critical Role? Who is your favourite character and why?
What is D&D?
D&D/DnD is the abbreviation of "Dungeons & Dragons", a tabletop role-playing game (RPG) published by Wizards of the Coast (Wikipedia). There are tabletop role-playing games, but Dungeons & Dragons is the most famous one.
Very basically, when playing a tabletop role-playing game, a group of players come together to create and tell a story in the context of a universe and rulesets. One player is the game master who outlines and directs the story and makes sure the rules are being followed. The other players each pick a character that they will play in that story.
The goal of tabletop role-playing games is to tell a story. This can happen in one or throughout a campaign (multiple sessions that are connected). The toolset and game mechanics are the following (with each group deciding for themselves which aspects they want to prioritize):
- Role-playing (staying in-character , talking like your character, making decisions - good and bad - based on the personality and background you decided to give your character)
- Improvisation / creativity (shaping the story and changing it into unexpected directions)
- Rules (mostly provided by the specific game one plays: what kind of world are you in, how do physics and magic work, what kind of creatures and cultures do exist, what would be logical and natural for your characters to be ble ato o din this world. Rules are being enforced by the game master and through rolling of dice)
- Turn-based combat (decided by the players' improvisation and rolling of dice or similar tools)
Who is Critical Role?
Critical Role is the name of a group of friends that started playing D&D privately at home, like most groups do. As they're prominent in the scene of video games, anime and generally nerdy stuff, they decided to live stream their sessions on Twitch.
To everyone's surprise, people really loved watching eight "nerdy-ass voice actors" (as they describe themselves in their intro) create stories together and the streams hit thousands of viewers right away.
Many years later, Critical Role is a registered company with employees, their own studio, live shows and much more.
Imogen Temult is the character Laura Bailey created for their campaign 3 and hopefully will be playing for many sessions to come.
Other members of the cast of Critical Role are Matthew Mercer, Travis Willingham, Marisha Ray, Sam Riegel, Liam O'Brian, Taliesin Jaffe and Ashley Johnson.