For my series Killer Queens, I have photographed 40 individuals from Birmingham's (UK) LGBTQ+ and drag community; the scope and participation of which demonstrates the growth of this countercultural scene in contemporary Britain.
The colourful body of work—which consists of both digital and analogue portraits, including Polaroids—celebrates and explores performance and self-expression. It ultimately addresses current issues surrounding identity, gender, sexuality and community, to tell a strong collective story about discovery.
Fascinated by the ways in which drag artists can create endless variations of characters, in the most unique and innovative ways, I set out to document the scene.
With these photographs, I aim to make aware that despite the fact that everyone is born with a specific shape and form, we have the freedom to experiment with new appearances, attitudes and identities through re-invention. We are never fully formed.
Motivated to entertain and educate, the talented artists I have worked with embrace and advocate their multi-layered identity, offering a podium for inclusion and diversity. Utilising drag as a tool to creatively question the construction and ascription of identity, they play with magnified stereotypes. If the work focusses on the drag community, ultimately, it addresses societal issues at large. Gender performativity is choreographed and acted out by everyone in our every day lives.
At first glance, the images may look like glamorous perfection, but on closer inspection details and imperfections draw attention to their constructed nature; the fake hairline of their wigs and the texture in their skin, coming through the surface of many layers of glossy makeup.
Just like the artists, I am constantly drawing attention to the artificiality and playfulness with forward-thinking aesthetics. I am not trying to disguise reality, but instead, uncover their raw beauty, which I value and am keen to articulate throughout my work.
Essentially I play with the same idea as my subjects; the disconnection between desire and reality — the person they feel like being that day, in that moment, and the person they are behind the mask.
Unlike a traditional reportage, I use simple backgrounds in various colours to isolate my subjects from their context, giving a twist to the theatrical environment they are accustomed to. I see the studio as a stage without an audience or decor.
I experiment with different shades to evoke and communicate a certain mood or message, but also to literally portray the colourful, lively personalities of my subjects. The colours furthermore represent the rainbow flag that is associated with the LGBTQ+ community.
Many thanks to the drag artists involved ↓
Divine Miss M
Dominus Von Vexo
Dylan / Dee Sasstrus Doe
Jupiter & Minerva
Paulette Mii Cherry