By Tom Dare
GLAMOUROUS IMAGES of some of New York’s most high-profile drag Queens and Kings have been published as part of a new book, offering a rare insight into the edgier side of New York’s gritty night-life.
‘Drags – Photographed by Gregory Kramer’ by world-renowned fashion photographer Gregory Kramer is published by KMW Studio, and features close to 50 individual portraits of some of the most popular names on the New York City drag scene.
Some of the names featured from the modern world of drag include Duelling Bankheads, Peppermint, Murray Hill, Linda Simpson, Sugga Pie Koko, Sherry Vine, Flawless Sabrina, Sweetie, Pearl Harbor, Sultana, Flotilla DeBarge and Dusty Ray Bottoms, with each King or Queen authoring their own look for the photo shoot.
And Kramer, who spent a year collating the photographs from the book, says it was no easy ride to organise everything. Writing in the book, he says:
“A year of emailing, Facebooking, calling, scheduling, re-scheduling, networking, lighting, steaming, transforming, tucking, corseting, pantyhosing, padding, clamping, pinning, re-styling, slipping heels on, pulling heels off, zipping, gluing, wigging, powdering, lipsticking, posing, shooting, laughing, yaaaasing, re-shooting, editing, sweeping up rhinestones, boa feathers and such, searching for lost luggage, waiting… waiting… and more waiting, and a little retouching. I present to you: DRAGS.”
The book also features reflections from some of the performers photographed on what it means to be a drag act. One of these is from Charles Busch, who writes:
“For the past forty years, I’ve earned my living as a drag artist. If I had a dollar for
every time I’ve had to explain what drag means to me, I’d have enough scratch to pay for a gown made of solid diamonds.
“Performers of my generation and the ones preceding me have bristled at being labelled
‘drag queens.’ We felt it was patronising and denied us the dignity of being simply accepted as entertainers or actors.
“My younger colleagues today celebrate that term. Being a drag queen is a source of pride. I wanted to be taken seriously as a playwright and actor, so I felt it necessary to clearly differentiate what I did on stage with who I was off stage. To be referred to as a drag queen implied that I wasn’t a professional, that I was a fringe personality who dressed in outrageous drag as a lifestyle choice.
“However, lately I’ve come to see that it’s not so clear cut. I’ve used drag as a creative starting point for so many years, it has to come from a profound place within me.
“Drag for many men is a reaction to the constrictions of traditional masculinity. Therefore, many men create characters who are sexual outlaws that provoke and express rage at a small minded drab world of rigid sexual roles. However, for every one of those wonderfully defiant clowns, there are others who come at it from a more naturalistic, romantic direction. There are performers who strike a balance between the traditionally beautiful and the political.
“Drag is a theatrical convention that can embrace an endless range of creativity. There are no boundaries.”
The Ali Forney Center, a New York based not-for-profit, will be the recipient of Mr. Kramer’s profits from sales of the book. AFC is the largest agency dedicated to LGBTQ homeless youths in America—assisting nearly 1,400 youths per year through a 24-hour Drop-In Center which provides over 70,000 meals annually, medical and mental health services through an on-site clinic, and a scattered site housing program.
Drags is published by KMW Studios, and can be purchased here: http://dragsbook.com/