DragonCon 2015 was my fourth year attending what one of my friends appropriately calls NerdiGras. More than a convention with celebrity guests, panels, and gaming, DragonCon is five days of 24 hour activity transforming five hotels and the surrounding area in Downtown Atlanta into a world where Storm Troopers, Doctors and Waldo are expected parts of the landscape.
The first year, I took lots of pictures. To a first timer, it’s overwhelming to see all the wonderful costumes and it all seems so novel. These days, with four DragonCons and other conventions under my belt, I find I take progressively less pictures. This is not because I am jaded to the experience. On the contrary, I find the experiencing to be vivid as ever.
For those who love to take pictures at DragonCon and get the perfect shots of the elaborate costumes, I thank you. Your pictures land online and keep the con alive. I hope you get as much pleasure from how you spend your convention as I do from how I spend mine. I sometimes suspect there may come a year when I decide to play photo journalist myself. After all, every year is a new adventure full of possibilities.
One reason I’ve stopped worrying about taking pictures is the flood photos online after the con by better photographers with far better equipment. Add the crushing crowds and the frustration of traffic stopping dead in a congested area while someone stops a cosplayer for a photo op, say, in the dealers’ room or on the path to a sky-bridge and I’d rather avoid the hassle for myself and others.
The biggest reason I don’t go out of my way to take pictures at DragonCon is my favorite moments are of the you-had-to-be-there variety.
The scenes I notice and remember are not appropriate opportunities to record. A tenet of “cosplay is not consent” etiquette is requesting permission to photograph as well as not photographing “off duty” cosplayers. This leaves my favorite moments from conventions off the table. If I can’t take a picture of girl Ninja Turtle cosplayers sitting at the food court having lunch or Princess Leia talking on a cell phone and holding a Starbucks cup, why bother?
My favorite example from 2015 happened Sunday as we were walking past the food court entrance near CVS.
On Sunday, the crowds have thinned significantly from the madness of Friday and Saturday. I’d noticed several sets of parents and small children earlier in the day without con badges, obviously locals checking out the part of the con that spills out onto the streets of Atlanta. I’d almost stepped on Thor’s cape on the steps of the Westin as he got down on one knee to pose for a picture with one of these kids. No doubt, made that little guy’s day.
Near the food court, we’d missed the photo op itself with the mom and little boy, all of three or four years old, and Batman. It was the aftermath of the pictures being taken as if DragonCon makes Atlanta a low-rent super hero theme park for the day that I saw. The mom stood with her purse open and holding out a folded bit of currency. The little boy stood behind, watching Batman. Batman graciously waved away the offer. Without even slowing down, the idea of attempting to tip Bruce Wayne was burned into my brain.
Like several years ago when I saw thirty or so Death Eaters, Dementors, and Voldemorts arranged for a group photo outside the Sheridan. Taking their picture was a beautifully costumed Disney style Snow White.
Only at DragonCon.