Black Women Thrive: Interview with Photographer Ashley "AshB" Badie

Photographer AshB cosplaying as
Super Sonico, the mascot of Nitroplus.
Although they might oblige their request for a new Playstation game or to watch just one more episode of Dragonball before dinner, most parents simply don't understand their children's love for video games or anime, Japanese animated shows.

However, photographer Ashley "AshB" Badie's parents certainly don't fit that mold. Seriously, she has two of the coolest parents ever. If it weren't for them, AshB and her three brothers—whom she admits influenced her tomboyish nature—probably wouldn't have discovered their passion for anime and games. When they were growing up, their parents, while not too keen on video games, weren't above watching their favorite shows with them.

"The first anime I got into was Dragonball Z...my parents would rush me and my little brother home from daycare so that they could watch it with us. And if we had to miss an episode, they used a VHS player to record it...One of my older brothers even drew a huge picture of Super Sayian 2 Trunks on his bedroom wall. My parents were upset, but couldn't stay mad because they knew it looked cool."

Not only did they encourage their children to pursue everything awesome and nerdy, but they have kind, loving hearts as well.

"After I became an adult my parents adopted four more kids so now I have all together five brothers and two sisters."

AshB with a crew of
Eevee (Pokemon) cosplayers.
Naturally, AshB wasn't beyond sharing her love for anime and gaming with one of her younger siblings, "I'm passing on my [hobbies] to my 13-year-old sister who is working on watching every anime available on Netflix."

YuYu Hakusho, Sekirei, FairyTail, and Death Note are some of AshB's favorite anime shows; she's working on rewatching the last title. As for video games, her interest in them began during the winter of 1996.

"I got hooked on games when I got my N64 for Christmas...Super Mario 64, Banjo and Kazooie, Kirby and the Chrystal Shards, Smash Bros 64, and Mario Kart 64 are my favorite[s] on that console."

Nonetheless, she admits she no longer has the patience for some titles and prefers mobile platform games.

"I tried to play Super Mario Sunshine again [recently] and...I am not as good as I used to be...I just got bored with it."

AshB in civilian clothing.
She is especially looking forward to Pokemon GO, a Pokemon game, expected to be released in 2016, where players can catch "real" Pokemon on their smart phones while they're out and about. AshB's favorite Pokemon are Vaporeon and Squirtle; both creatures are under the "water-type" classification. "I am 100% a water trainer," she says.

In 2012, AshB attended Katsucon, one of many anime conventions in the country for anime, gaming, and Japanese pop culture lovers; they usually span over two to four days. It was her first "con" as many anime convention goers call them. Aside from being surrounded by like-minded people, AshB was extremely impressed by the cosplayers in attendance.

"I was just amazed at all the kick-ass costumes and beautiful people. I felt at home with fellow nerds but out of place because I wasn't in a costume."

Cosplay—a term developed in Japan from the combination of the words "costume" and "play"—involves the creation or purchase of a costume, representative of a fan's favorite character, to wear at a con. Cosplayers have helped AshB meld two of her biggest passions—anime and photography—into one. She began shooting in 2009, but cosplay has been her inspiration since the past couple of years, and she has become well-known in the New England area.

"[At first] I actually felt really shy going up to cosplayers to ask to take their photo. I['ve] definitely grew[n] a lot since then."

And it goes without saying that her super-cool parents support her, "When I started getting into cosplay photography, my family thought it was really cool! I'm thankful I have their support and interest in what I do."

So far, she has attended Anime USA (2012-15); Anime Weekend Atlanta (2015); AwesomeCon (2014-15); Colossalcon (2015); Dragon*Con (2012-15); Katsucon (2012-15); MAGfest (2013-15); New York Comic Con (2012-15); Otakon (2012-15); and PAX East (2013-15).

Marvel's America Chavez.
Otakon '15
Out of all those cons, Colossalcon, Dragon*Con, Katsucon, and MAGfest are her favorites.

"Katsucon is a beautiful location for photographs and the cosplayers that it attracts are always amazing. Colassalcon was like the ultimate vacation con with all the pools and swimsuit cosplays[—]super fun carefree vibe. Dragon*Con is [a] 21+ party con so it plays to my love of night time drinking fun. MAGfest is the ultimate arcade [plus] concert 24 hour [con]."

Over the years, AshB has photographed and encountered cosplayers of all walks of life and has become a fan of several including AllieCat, Ani-Mia, Chubear, Destiny Nickelson, Jessica Nigri, Kana, Kaybear, Ely Renae, Sallendria, Spectra Marvelous, Stella Chuu, Vampy Bit Me, and Zero Suit Sami.

AshB doesn't feel isolated in the cosplay photography world as there are many other female photographers who make their rounds at cons like Anna Fischer, Cozpho, Darshelle Stevens, Katsuya Weller, Sorariro Days, Soulfire, Starfall, and Vivid Vision to name a few. Actually, she finds that being a female allows her to more easily understand how to shoot female subjects tastefully, yet she expresses that mindfulness and respect in regards to the feelings of others is an important aspect of being a successful photographer in general.

KayBear Cosplay as Jinx from
League of Legends.
Anime Week Atlanta '15
"When I shoot anyone...comfort is what matters to me first and foremost...I try to ask as many questions I can about the character that they are cosplaying and the type of photos that they want to be produced. Communication is...important. Also, intuition[;] if I catch a glimpse of uneasiness, tension or discomfort, I stop and ask what I can do to help."

Additionally, AshB doesn't feel singled-out as a Black cosplay photographer; however, she admits her role comes with unwanted pressure.

"I feel that there are expectations that are a little bit high for me compared to everyone else. Tackling issues of diversity and inclusiveness is something that I always wanted to do and continue to strive to do better, however I feel that I'm looked at as being an example and role model, even when I don't particularly want to be."

Respect for cosplayers of any gender, size, and ethnic background has been a topic of discussion in the anime convention world for quite some time. However, with the advent of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, more light has been shed on Black cosplayers, and lately, the topic of blackface has frequently arisen in the community.

RuffleButt Cosplay's public apology (recently removed)
for her choice to darken her skin for her portrayal of
Revolutionary Girl Utena's Anthy Himemiya.
When a White cosplayer dresses up as a person of color (POC), is it okay for them to paint their skin darker? Even if they don't mean to be malicious? Some say it shouldn't be a problem, but the opinions of most POC in the cosplay community appear to be a resounding "no". Their sentiments fall in line with the opinion that an ethnicity is not a costume to be worn; White cosplayers can dress up in the garb of POC characters without painting their skin and still appear on-point.

AshB is strongly of the same opinion, and wishes more White cosplayers would understand that certain actions are offensive to their peers.

"You do not need to be personally offended by something for it to be problematic...[or] be racist to do racist things...if someone says your behavior is offensive and you continue to do it, then you do not care about the person whom you are offending...[W]e should be respectful to one another, even if that means not doing something that you personally feel is harmless because it is harming others."

Although she loves cosplay, AshB doesn't often don a costume at conventions. Aside from wearing a Super Sonico cosplay at a couple of cons, she's mostly attended events in plain clothes.

"I feel much more comfortable behind the lens. I actually don't cosplay more because I am super camera shy and I'd rather be taking photos than being in them. When I'm at cons I usually just wear geeky tee shirts. I may dress up a little bit when its drinking time, but I've grown to like being dressed down and casual."

Spectra Marvelous as Frozone from The Incredibles.
Katsucon 2014
(Costume made by Gina B. Cosplay)
Of course, going off to an anime convention requires much more than a couple of cute outfits and cosplays. Like preparing for a mini-vacation, every con-goer must bring a few essentials to make the weekend go smoothly.

"[Bring a] water bottle. Drink water throughout the day. Fill the water bottle up with more fun things if you are over 21 (laughs). [Also a] cell phone charger, [and] mobile battery."

Although many photographers strive to purchase the hottest and latest tools in the field, AshB doesn't find herself toting much to cons in the way of equipment. In fact, her favorite photography aid is absolutely priceless.

"The sun and clouds! I shoot [in] mostly all natural light. Nothing is more beautiful than shooting outside on an overcast day. I also rely on my 85mm 1.4f for [the] majority of my shots. I am long overdue on upgrading my camera, but until my budget allows me to do it, I'm still shooting with my Canon 7D."

Cosplayer Cerise as Esdeath from
Akame ga Kill. She did an interview
with VICE at Otakon '15
As AshB realized at Katsucon 2012, a fan's first time at an anime convention can be a little daunting as they navigate the crowds of people, attend industry talks, meet voice actors, and restrain themselves from spending a week's pay in the dealers' room. Nonetheless, while cons are fun, AshB reminds con-goers to be careful and alert.

"Be smart and trust your instincts. Never go anywhere alone and if something doesn't feel right, leave, stop, or tell someone. Treat others with respect and how you would like to be treated."

And the best advise from a photographer: "Take lots of pictures because you'll want to remember the moments."

All photos are taken from AshB's Facebook page unless otherwise stated.

Ashley "AshB" Badie is a cosplay and costume photographer from Virginia. She studied Photographic Imaging at The Art Institute of Washington and graduated with a BA in Fine Art. She attends video game, anime and comic conventions photographing the work of costume designers from all around the world. To book a shoot with AshB, you can reach her through her website or social media.

Website: AshB Images
Facebook: AshB Images

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