Article By: Gwendolyn Ng
Being a veteran cosplayer, Ms Alice Goh understands the difficulties of her hobby in tropical Singapore.
After putting on elaborate make- up, wigs and costumes, most cosplayers – understandably – want to immortalise their looks in photographs – and often in evocative outdoor settings. But the problem is surviving the heat.
“We used to go to places such as the Chinese Garden for our shoots and it got really hot wearing our costumes under the sun,” says the 31-year-old, who loves dressing up as student idol singer Minami Kotori from high school anime Love Live!.
So she quit her job as a project manager in IT and, together with some other investors, pooled together a five-figure sum to set up an air-conditioned studio. LunarWorks Studio opened two months ago and is dedicated to cosplayers.
Located in an industrial building in Woodlands Close, the 1,090 sq ft studio features five themed backdrops, including a Japanese tatami room with paper umbrellas and a regal, Western-themed room with a Victorian sofa as its centrepiece.
It costs $30 a person to rent the studio for a three-hour slot on weekends and $25 on weekdays.
Customers, who usually take their own photos, can make use of all five settings. If the cosplayer wants a professional photographer, the studio will provide one at an additional cost.
Ms Goh is not the only entrepreneurial J-culture enthusiast. One floor above her studio is the one- year-old Luminos, another photography studio that also sees a fair number of cosplayers making use of the facilities. The commercial studio is also open to non-cosplayers.
It was started by cosplay photographer Kwong Wai Keat, 26, to provide a “safe space for people to practise their creativity”.
He has photographed cosplayers for five years and has travelled with them to far-flung, deserted places to get good shots.
He says: “Most locations are hard to get to, such as lallang fields in Tuas. A lot of cosplayers are young and such places are not safe for them.”
An anime fan, he is currently majoring in graphic communications at Lasalle College of the Arts, and runs Luminos in his free time.
He put in $6,500, funded by his freelance photography jobs, to set up the business.
His studio backdrops are based on popular anime series. Currently, it includes a pool based on popular game and anime Kantai Collection and one with a futuristic theme inspired by the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.
The studio costs $30 to $40 an hour on all days. Cosplayers usually bring their own photographers, but Mr Kwong can also provide photography services if needed.
Both Luminos and LunarWorks Studio are building sets for photo booths at events such as the ongoing Anime Festival Asia Singapore.
Ms Goh says her studio is a way of giving back to the cosplay community by providing a comfortable and conducive environment for photos. “The best reward is when they give the studio good reviews.”