Exhibition 'Killer Queens' 

11 September - 13 October 2019

For her ongoing series 'Killer Queens', Laura Chen has photographed around 40 artists from Birmingham's (UK) drag community. 

A selection of her colourful studio portraits can be viewed during the exhibition at Foto Atelier BW5, Voorburg, The Netherlands. 

"Killer Queens explores the idea of parodying of gender as a performance art and a way of self-expression. The drag artists I have worked with do not see this 'playing with gender' as a caricature to insult the opposite sex. Their intentions are to entertain and educate. Drag offers a platform for diversity and a chance to be yourself and to discover who you are. Drag offers an opportunity to form your own opinions, represent them and embody visions.

This is exactly what attracted me to drag and where the interest came from to document the scene. I am fascinated by the ways in which drag artists can create endless variations of characters, in the most unique ways possible. They do this by playing with different fabrics, colours, patterns, textures, shapes and forms. 

Through the medium of photography I feed my curiosity in my subject. I want to get to know both the person behind the stage name and the character/persona that goes hand in hand with the performance attire they decide to wear in that moment.

At first glance, the studio portraits look quite glamorous, but if you look closely you start to notice more details; the fake hairline of wigs and the lines in the skin that are coming through the surface of many layers of makeup. I think it is important to value raw beauty in all its realness. In fact, I play with the same idea as my subjects; the disconnection between desire and reality - the person they want to be that day, at that moment, and the person they are behind that mask. I study and observe that balance and its limits.

The studio portraits are driven by colour. I experiment with different shades to evoke a certain mood and to communicate, but also to literally display, the colourful and lively personalities of my subjects. With the use of simple backgrounds in various colours, I try to give a twist to the theatrical environment to which my subjects are accustomed. I see the studio as a stage without an audience or decor.

The title of my project references to Queen’s song ‘Killer Queen’. It’s a play on words that I use to introduce an alternate meaning and interpretation of the word “queen”. Through my eyes, you don’t have to be royal to be a queen."

Using Format