The idea of comparing cosplayers in and out of costume is hardly new—we just ran a web series on it—but Paul Hillier’s collection of images stand out for the way he’s able to not just contrast the person’s appearance, but capture the process of creating an outfit.

“A cosplayer will typically only wear a costume at a convention for maybe 2-6 hours before changing back into street clothes or into another costume.”, Hillier says. “In that time they will be asked for hundreds of photographs. Those photographs will be shared online to thousands of people. Those few hours will be the embodiment of how thousands of people recognize them. Yet for almost all cosplayers this is only a tiny fraction of what they do. For every hour spent cosplaying many more are spent crafting their costumes and yet those hours are widely overlooked.”

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“For this project I wanted to photograph popular cosplayers in their most recognizable form to the general public and contrast that with how they actually spend the majority of time cosplaying.”

The images he took show each cosplayer hard at work on the outfit he later photographed them in. There’s a full collection on Paul’s site, including interviews with each cosplayer, but I’ve shared some highlights below.

Blackwater Cosplay (Kiga)

“The biggest misconception I see is that people think we roleplay as (or actually believe we are) the characters we cosplay. Sure, it can be fun to add some extra confidence to my walk when I’m dressed as EDI, but I hardly go around saluting strangers in my Captain America outfit.”
“At the end of the day, most of us are just regular people trying to hang out with other people while showing off the hard work and craftsmanship we’re capable of.”

Mai Sheri Costumes

It usually takes Mai Sheri anywhere from 50-100 hours to complete a costume.

Vicky Bunny Angel

“I cosplayed to my very first Anime North and immediately fell in love with the strong sense of community and I think that’s largely what keeps me going – being a part of a community and making new friends through a joint love of cosplay.”
“We “get into character” for shoots, performances on stage, or at gatherings but when I’m going to the washroom or taking a lunch break I’m not pissing in character or ordering my food in character ya know?”