Vampire bites and bloody sights aren't unusual at a photoshoot being run by a pair of local photographers.
Most of us have our go-to's to escape the ordinary humdrum of everyday life. Books draw us in as we read and visualize in our minds; movies invite us to see with our own eyes an invented visual experience on screen; video games are even more interactive, as we control a character in a game and use a variety of senses, as technology progresses, to combat on-screen obstacles.
A form of escapism that is approaching commonality is costume play, or cosplay for short. Cosplay is sort of a more intensive, borderline obsessive escape; cosplayers will actually dress up and act out scenarios from their favorite books, comic books, movies, video games and more. They want to embody and become their favorite characters. It's different, in a good way.
Local artists Lew Spangler and Ashley Weber combined their love of photography with their love of cosplay to create these photos. Weber, right, is pictured with a model for a vampire-themed shoot.
This photo from a “Vampire Knight”-themed shoot is part of a project by local artists Lew Spangler and Ashley Weber, who use photography to escape through the worlds of manga and cosplay.
Lew Spangler, 36, of Howard, and Ashley Weber, 29, of Lock Haven, have taken their love of art, photography and cosplay and managed to mesh them into one unique activity that allows them to escape those pesky humdrums.
As parents, they both work tough 9-to-5 jobs so that they can support their children. But in the back of both of their minds rested a creative need to explore beyond a traditional day-to-day life.
Spangler wanted to take photos. Weber wanted to be a model. After becoming close friends a few years ago, they decided to try to work together to bring their creative cravings to life. They started attending various anime-manga-cosplay conventions and then progressed into doing photoshoots.
As fans of manga and vampires, the manga series "Vampire Knight" served as the perfect catalyst to start their cosplay--photography endeavors.
"Vampire Knight" tells the tale of a girl, Yuki, who, on a stormy winter night, was attacked by a vampire, but then rescued by another. Her good friend, Zero, has a deep hatred for vampires because of a trouble past, but Zero and Yuki still managed to somehow coexist.
"For 'Vampire Knight' it's more of a drama, there's a school, where there's a day class of humans, night class of vampires and they're trying to teach coexistence," Spangler said.
"And there's a love triangle," Weber said.
Together, Spangler, Weber and a few other cosplay- and manga-lovers, get together and jump into the fantasy and take on new identities, if only for the span of the photoshoot. They use wigs, fake blood, colored contacts and of course costumes and more, to become Zero, Yuki or other characters.
"I love fantasy, so it's fun being different characters and it's fun showing how the characters feel through the photos," Weber said, discussing the different types of photoshoots they perform.
"This last shoot was more about blood, and biting the sh*t out of Yuki," Weber said.
Using a lot of fake homemade blood, concocted by Weber using chocolate syrup and food coloring, the group recently had fun. Generally, they go into their photoshoots without any plans.
"Our motto is to wing it," Ashley said.
"When we're doing these shoots, especially the vampire ones, I'll just stick a bunch of the blood in my mouth, bend over and let it all run down my chin," Weber said.
They have been publishing their "Vampire Knight" work online and have been attracting many other fans of the series.
"I attract a lot of fangirls," Weber said. "You can tell I'm a girl, but it doesn't matter, because they love that character and they love you ... it's really weird."
They reminisced of a time when they went to a convention and a group of girls actually ran up to Ashley screaming "Zero!"
"My goal, even though it might be really hard, is to make a living off of doing this stuff," Weber said.
Currently, they both have a photography business; it's on Facebook as L Exposed Imagery.
Also, Weber has created her own cosplay Facebook page, where she shares photos and her artwork of Zero, called Koralene Cosplay. She created it because of the attention she was getting from people on the web who love to see her in character as Zero from "Vampire Knight."
Spangler and Weber hope that what they have started continues to grow, that they get better equipment, and also hope that more people become interested in joining them in their cosplay shoots.
Their next shoot is called "Elfen Lied," which Weber said will be fun because it'll be "like a bloody massacre."
Lyndsey Hewitt is the assistant lifestyle editor and also a reporter at the Sun-Gazette. She also is, in her spare time, a photographer. Exposure will be printed on the last Thursday of each month. Follow @ExposureSG on Twitter to keep up with updates in between columns.