Inspired and enamored by this new element in Atlanta’s already thriving drag arena, several gay photographers decided to capture it for the show “Legendary Children,” a photo exhibit of local drag stars including Edie Cheezburger, Jaye Lish, Lavonia Elberton, Ellisorious Rex, Evah Destruction, Brigitte Bidet, Cayenne Rouge, Mo’Dest Volgare, Kryean Kally and Violet Chachki.
The key to the exhibit was to have the queens not posed on a stage or while performing, but rather out of their so-called element in such places including the grocery store, Zoo Atlanta, the Belt Line and the Old Fourth Ward Skate Park.
The show is now open to the public at gallery 1526 and will include a Sept. 28 reception and drag show featuring all of the queens photographed. The show is sponsored in part by Atlanta Pride and is part of the 15th annual Atlanta Celebrates Photography fest in October, a month-long celebration of photography through exhibitions and events.
Photographers for the exhibit are Jon Dean, Blane Bussey, Blake England, Kevin O and Matthew Terrell. The exhibit is already garnering national attention with stories in Huffington Post and Vice.
Also, Violet Chacki is wearing the crown of Sharon Needles in several of her photographs. Needles is a past winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and rumor is that Violet stole the crown when Needles was in Atlanta and eventually it was returned. When asked about the crown, Violet would only say, “The crown is buried in Piedmont park along with my ‘Drag Race’ audition tape! HA!”
In recent days, “Legendary Children” has been accused of portraying pornography instead of art. Read more about that story by clicking here.
Photographer Jon Dean answered a few questions about the show:
How did the idea for this show come about? The idea for the show originated in the summer of 2012. I had just moved to Atlanta and was reconnecting with one of my longtime friends, who had just started developing his own drag persona, Cayenne Rouge. We have always collaborated on little projects and were looking for a chance to do something creative again. I really wanted to get a little queer art show together for the Atlanta Celebrates Photography festival that October.
The problem was, how do we get people to come to another photography show or another drag show? The timing was not right, and things really didn’t start picking up until the beginning of this year. I was introduced to Blane Bussey, who was already shooting the majority of these queens. He had a great body of work going and we decided to curate a show.
You identify these queens in the exhibit as part of a “changing face” of Atlanta’s drag scene. Explain what you mean. We truly could not have put this show on a year ago. Atlanta has always had a vibrant drag scene, but there is really something special about this specific time and this community. These queens are speaking for a generation of young queer people, and even to a wider audience. Straight people flock to “The Other Show” (at Jungle) and “Gurlfrandz” (at Mary’s) and they have a blast! These shows are giving an outlet to the queens who don’t just want to look pretty or fishy. It’s not just about the lip synch anymore — our girls are singing live, doing poetry readings and sometimes flying around on aerial silks. It’s always exciting to watch.
How did you select the queens to be part of the show? Before we started discussing the show, the photographers were already gravitating towards these specific queens. They were doing exciting things in the city and they all had a willingness to collaborate with us. It’s not always easy to get other artists to understand and trust your vision, but they were completely on board. Half of these queens have their own shows now — Edie Cheezburger’s “The Other Show,” Ellisorous Rex’s “Gurlfrandz,” Lavonia Elberton’s “Coven,” Brigitte Bidet’s “Tossed Salad” and Jaye Lish’s “Birds of Paradise.”
What else would you like to say? The one thing that I’m really proud of is the fact that we’ve been able to bring together 15 gay men to plan a show, and somehow we are all still getting along. There have been hiccups along the way, but we have really created a unique kinship. The idea of family and “drag mothers” and “drag daughters” is a big part of the community. As a young gay individual living in the south, we kind of have to create our own families. We’ve definitely accomplished that and I’m proud to be working with such creative people.