Killer Queens

Laura Chen

2018 - 2020

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 portraits celebrate and explore performance and self-expression, ultimately addressing 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. The series consists of both digital and analogue portraits (Polaroid 600), which are driven by colour. Unlike a traditional reportage however, I use simple backgrounds in various colours to isolate my subjects from their context. I try to give a twist to the theatrical environment they are accustomed to, seeing 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 display and visualise the colourful, lively personalities of my subjects. The colours furthermore represent the rainbow flag that is associated with the LGBTQ community.

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 capture, I am constantly drawing attention to the artificiality and playfulness with forward-thinking aesthetics, using a drag strategy with my photography. 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.

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. 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.

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  • Ginny Lemon

  • Pork Pie

  • Fred McFannybatter

  • Annie mal

  • Anna Nass

  • Jupiter & Minerva

  • Ashleigh-Marc

  • Teal Sparkes

  • Ambriel Addams

  • Damaris

  • Cycki Brokat

  • Jay Andre

  • Eva Lution

  • Divine Miss M

  • Peaches Monroe

  • RiiRii LePour

  • Dominus Von Vexo

  • Dylan / Dee Sasstrus Doe

  • Paulette Mii Cherry

  • Paul Aleksandr

  • Twiggy

  • Elliott Barnicle

  • RiiRii LePour

  • Twiggy