Comic-Con International is a magnet not only for wannabe superheroes but also photographers. They roam the halls like everyone else vying for slick shots of Harley Quinns, Batmans, and Wonder Womans all dressed up. Maggie Shannon was among them this year. Only she turned her lens on the less polished, quotidian moments of convention life: a Power Ranger riding an escalator, a young Spider-Man getting his costume adjusted, bonneted Offreds and Ofglens ordering lunch.
“I wanted to photograph it with my own eye,” Shannon says, “to find the weird, wacky moments that maybe aren’t classic Comic-Con beauty shots.”
This weekend, 130,000 fantasy and sci-fi fans packed into the 615,700-square-foot San Diego Convention Center, a glass-encased building topped with fiberglass peaks as white and stiff as meringue. It’s hosted the convention for two decades (along with the 1996 Republican National Convention and some Wheel of Fortune tapings), but isn’t exactly photogenic. Airport-style carpeting, weird lighting, and drab signage abound. “It’s the most boring space in the world,” Shannon says, “but then there’s all these colorful characters running around having a blast. That made my job pretty easy.”
Shannon wandered the convention alongside them from morning to evening on Friday, capturing spontaneous, sometimes humorously banal, moments with her Canon Mark IV and off-camera flash. It was a glorious convergence of the fantastic and mundane. Parents in Beetlejuice monster masks pushing a toddler stroller. Twins from The Matrix perfecting their dreads. A Steve-and-Robin pair nibbling homemade PB&Js. Weary convention-goers crashed on the floor wherever they could, their possessions sprawled around them as they scrolled through their phones, pored over the schedule, or caught a few Zs. Invariably, a security guard would come along shouting something about a fire hazard. “I felt so bad for those security guys,” Shannon says, “Every five minutes they’re like, ‘Sorry, you can’t stand there. Please move along.’ “
Of course, she shot the costumes too. What self-respecting photographer wouldn’t avail themselves of the opportunity to photograph 20 different She-Ras—photobombed by Deadpool? But her favorite was the ginormous Iron Man towering several heads above the crowd on hidden stilts. At the end of the day, she saw the costume deconstructed like giant lego blocks on the carpet, an unshaven badge-holder happily conked out amid the pieces.
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