29 January 2012

Rachel, also known as Athora, is a dedicated Lara Croft cosplayer, known in the community by her recent Tomb Raider (2012) photoshoots. Several of her photos have appeared on the Official Tomb Raider Blog. Her cosplaying hobby not only involves photoshoots but also traveling to expos and conventions as well known characters including Lara Croft. Below is an interview with the lovely lady!

Photography by Darren Rowley Photography DRP

How were you first introduced to the Tomb Raider series?
I was first introduced to the Tomb Raider series in 1996 when I was about 4 years old, my dad bought a brand new Playstation 1 for Christmas and Tomb Raider 1 was among a bundle of games he had bought for it, I was too young to play it myself at the time, but loved watching dad play it every evening!!

What was it about Lara which inspired you to cosplay as her?
What inspired me to cosplay as Lara in the first place was because I've always wanted to be her. I've always admired her sense of adventure and fearless attitude.

I remember dressing up as her when I was little, I had a little blue top and some brown shorts, my Timberland boots that I wore everywhere and I improvised with a brown handbag for a backpack, hair toggles for leg straps and....a pair of shoes to imitate guns (LOL) So when I discovered this world of cosplay, noticing others who have worked hard to get their outfits as accurate as possible, I knew my very first handmade costume would be of the lovely Miss Croft. And for me, cosplaying Lara is my own little tribute to my favourite heroine of videogaming!

 Do you have any tips for TR fans wanting to begin cosplaying?
Some tips to start cosplay would be to not take it too seriously and start off simple, as you gain more experience then you'll be ready to give yourself bigger challenges. Look online for some tutorials on making stuff like holsters, backpacks, pattern cutting, find out what guns she uses and you'll most probably find a BB replica (though PLEASE be careful when running around in public with these and ALWAYS check your country's regulations before purchasing!) There are some fantastic cosplayers out there always willing to give friendly advice. To get into character; study the game and get to know Lara, learn how she moves and reacts to the environment and her behaviour towards other people - but most of all have fun and ENJOY IT!

How do you make your outfits? And what sort of challenges do you face while making them?
I start with gathering as many references as I can, looking at shapes and patterns and deciding what likely materials are used in Lara's outfits. Then I'll look for stuff I need to buy, like a pair of shorts or a t-shirt. Most of the time I'll have to heavily alter them by cutting, sewing, dyeing, adding mesh etc What type of boots she wears. I've got Pennangalan's replicas of the movie boots that I can run and climb in easily. To conventions I'll wear my new rocks, I much prefer chunkier boots to balance out my hips/holsters.

With the holsters I try to think about making something that is durable to withstand some knocks you get at conventions or when doing stunts on a photoshoot. This can be a challenge, looking for hard enough materials, but I've found cardboard reinforced with resin helps and covered in fake-leather to make them look authentic. Also make sure the gun fits snugly inside with a strap over the top to stop them from falling out and people nicking them! I use elasticated cords for the leg straps so my leg can bend freely, it also stops them from falling down! I make all of my belt buckles from FIMO - an oven bake polymer clay that's really fun to mould. My backpacks, I hand-sew using craft foam as a base, foam bends really nicely and looks fabulous with the fake-leather, again I use elastic for the straps so I can move my arms easily. If I need buckles I'll take them off of something I have lying round the house if I don't need them anymore and use them for my cosplay. I once used buckles from my horse's old totally-wrecked-beyond-repair rug!

Then comes the weathering! Depending on what I need the outfit for, if it's a convention I try to make sure that whatever I use to imitate mud or blood doesn't rub off, mainly to save the argument if I happen to accidentally brush against someone!

On a photoshoot I just love to get stuck in with mud and dirt! I once completely caked myself in mud for a shoot and for the final shots my mother held up a hose over my head to imitate rain, the shots turned out fantastic!

Do you plan photoshoots or are they spontaneous? And if you do plan, how do you go about doing it?
Nearly all of the time my photoshoots are spontaneous; I'll just go out and take pictures with my friend whenever we felt like it, improvising with whatever was available at the time! When I do have a photoshoot with a photographer we still don't REALLY plan anything, I mean we'll say yes, definitly want to get this shot with that prop, but other than that I'll just do whatever feels right at that time. Although having said that I am currently planning a big shoot for next year, which does indeed require carefull planning!

How important is getting the correct background for a photo?
In my opinion it's not that important, depending on what you want the viewer to feel when looking at the photography; whether it's entirely focused on the character or an on-location set to replicate the game or series as accurately as possible. I've not really had the opportunity to work on amazing locations, I had a TR:Reborn shoot once in a carpark full of cars! We just improvised with lighting and camera angles to hide the cars and obvious pipes/brick walls in the background, the photographer did some amazing editing and you can't even tell that it's a carpark!

Is cosplaying at conventions and expos (e.g. MCM London Expo) different compared to photoshoots?
Cosplaying to conventions is VERY different to being in-costume for a photoshoot. On a photoshoot, you're just there for the one photographer and you can work together to get the best shots. Whereas conventions, you're limited to backgrounds and places where there are a lot of people and usually instead of being photographed by the 1 person, you'd be mobbed by a horde of photographers! The only thing you can do is to just make up different poses by yourself. I try my best to entertain the crowd and it's really fun! Though the one thing I am always careful about is when and where I use my guns; although they're completely harmless it doesn't take much to scare the living daylights out of someone and get into serious trouble for it. Inside the convention and outside where it is quiet are the best places.

Are you planning any more photoshoots in the future?
I am indeed! I have 3 Lara shoots planned with 3 different outfits which I'm very much looking forward to! Plus some non-TR shoots as well.

Thank you for doing the interview, Rachel :) You're awesome!

Check out Athora's DeviantArt Page

Thanks also to all the photographers for allowing their work to be reproduced for this article.

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  1. You're welcome, Jaden!
    I'm honoured to be interviewed by you! :)

  2. Athora/or Rachel:)/, you cosplays are really fantastic. Yo're talented. I see Lara in your eyes!