Mesmerizing Before and After Photos of Drag Transformations
"There's a lot more skill involved than people realize."
All photos by Aaron Walker
Everyone loves a good before and after, and the drag community is no exception.
#Dragformation is an ongoing project by Australian photographer Aaron Walker, who documents the transformation of the country's diverse drag community in all its colorful glory.
Broadly caught up with him to ask about the thinking behind his big, bold photographic collection.
BROADLY: What is it about photographing people in drag that appeals to you?
Aaron Walker: It's the transformation process that is interesting to me, rather than the final look. It's the amount of time and the attention to detail, from walking off the street and into the dressing room, to walking on stage. That's a three-hour period of hair and makeup.
This is clearly about drag as an art form. What's it like to watch art happen in real time?
It's really interesting. With most of the drag artists that sit for me, their before shots are slightly awkward—it's a slightly uncomfortable process for them. But once they've transformed into their drag persona, they're very confident and know exactly how to model for the camera.
The outside transformation reflects inwardly too, I guess.
That became very obvious the more I shot. Without the drag makeup and the preparation, the process of transforming into that persona, they're a little bit more held back and self conscious. I didn't expect that at all.
You can see in the colour and the vibrancy of your shots that these are great subjects to work with.
They are! They're all so supportive of each-other, they have razor-sharp wit, they're cracking jokes. It makes the transformation period really fun—to be in amongst a group of people who have such humor and generosity. I feel privileged to be part of that.
You recently exhibited your photos at Midsumma festival in Melbourne; what was the reception like?
What struck me was the very wide demographic of people at the opening. Whether people were gay or straight or bi; in the scene or not in the scene at all, it's just really good to see such a mixture of people are drawn to my work.
You've said that this project is ongoing and that there isn't a clear end to it. Why is that?
I don't feel like I've covered a big enough range of drag artists, yet. In my collection there are only two drag kings; three people of colour, and no trans people. I'd like to feel like the collection is reflective of everybody in the community, and I don't feel like I'm there yet.
What's next for #Dragformation?
I'd like to make a book. Like a nice, big coffee table book of drag artists. That's my goal.
I love that; a coffee table book of drag artists rather than nature photography or like, Architecture.
Yeah, why not!
What message do you want people to take from your work, whether they're seeing it in a coffee table book or at Midsumma or online?
I think that drag artists shouldn't be overlooked so much. There's a lot more skill involved than people realise. I think drag artists should definitely be considered as very talented and skilled artists, alongside other performance artists that we see more of in the mainstream.