The drag scene in Atlanta is like no other, and when I was asked to be a guest editor for Georgia Voice for its drag issue, I was beyond excited! If you are not familiar with me, let me begin by saying, HEY GIRL, I’m Just Toby! As a photographer, I have captured the drag scene for a little over six years along with my colleague, Martin Kincade. I have worked with most of the queens in the city and have been lucky enough to travel the world photographing the most famous entertainers. I’m privileged to have been voted Best Local Photographer three years in a row and have been featured in Advocate, Out, Instinct, Pride.com, Netflix, and Hulu, to name a few media outlets. Take a moment a check out my work and follow me on social media: @JustTobyme
Drag has always been a source of inspiration for me, and I really cannot put into words how invigorating it is to see. There was a time when I was scared of drag performers — they have a sense of self-confidence and intriguing auras. When I moved to Atlanta from Jacksonville, Florida, I knew the city had a huge community of drag entertainers, and even though I knew a few entertainers back home, I wanted to meet more. I wanted to find a way to have that awesome confidence. Although, what I really wanted was to get to know the people behind the names: what got them started and how they transformed. I wanted to share that with the world.
Ever since I started photography as a hobby, I wanted to capture the essence of what I was seeing, whether it was a building, children, insects or rocks. My first published work was the cover of an organic chemistry lab book. Needless to say, I wanted to do the same with drag entertainers and capture the moments that moved me to the core. Atlanta has been great to me. I was able to immerse myself in the drag scene and learn so much of a culture that has paved the way for our LGBTQ community.
I love all kinds of drag! The drag scene is made up of all kinds of individuals: cis male, cis female, gay, straight, trans, and from all ethnicities. When I speak of drag, it is inclusive to all the different individuals who are here to open your eyes through their performances and elevated gender expression.
I want to make this point, because many of the people I have encountered outside our community believe drag is a gay man who dresses like a woman; or drag queens/kings must be trans because they are often expressing gender opposite to their assigned sex (which many associate with gender). Again, there are all kinds of people who do drag, including those who identify as trans. This is important to call out: much of what I have learned about drag has been from trans queens, they have educated me and shown me the history of the industry I have been working in for so many years.
Drag is an amazing art form. Every entertainer has a blank canvas to work with every time they do a performance. What I love most about drag is the transformation: not just physical, but also mental. Most of the entertainers I have worked with are nothing like their drag personas, and it always changes during a specific point in the transformation. I relate to that, because I consider my nickname, Toby, to be my drag name. It gives me that self-confidence and a different perspective to life, whereas the name my parents gave me is beautiful, but triggers a lot of emotional pain. Drag gives entertainers a way to express and understand the person they are inside.
If you live in Atlanta or are planning to visit or live here, make sure you check out our entertainers, because we have a city full of amazing shows and performers. I hope the articles I have written about the scene and business of drag give you a deeper perspective and understanding of what an incredible industry and community it is.
To all those drag entertainers in Atlanta (who I know or don’t know), you ALL inspire me and make Atlanta the drag mecca it is. Be true to yourselves, be good and be good to others, enjoy, and I love you all.