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Transcending gender

13 Jul 2017

Transcending gender Image

Final year Photography Studies College (PSC) student Aaron Walker has been making waves in the international LGBTI community through his first major series on drag artist portraiture.

With a background in circus and production, Aaron said he had always held a passion for taking pictures mainly through performance and street photography.

However, it wasn’t until he enrolled in a commercial major at PSC where he started exploring new ideas around portraiture, which was when he stumbled upon an opportunity to capture the world of drag artistry.

Through a friend, Aaron was first offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the life of a drag artist at a drag show where he first captured some unique insights into how artists transformed themselves.

“I looked at my shots afterwards and I wasn’t really interested in the after shots or the performance shots probably because I take a lot of those anyway,” he said. “That was in a way the superficial side of it because that’s what the audience sees, but I was interested in what the audience doesn’t see.”

“I looked at the shots of them getting ready and I was much more interested in showing those. I was much more interested in those as well myself because I didn’t really know the work that’s involved.”

After initially producing a handful of portraits and placing them online, the response to his series has snowballed and he has since exhibited at large galleries in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the Midsumma Festival.

The launch of his Melbourne exhibition at Chapel Off Chapel in Prahran was attended by international media from all around the world including Polish, Spanish, American, French and Italian press.

He said it wasn’t until he began exhibiting that he realised the positive impact the series was having on the identity and awareness of the LGBTI community.

“At first I didn’t realise that I was contributing to that conversation but then the more people I met I started to realise that it was really relevant and important work,” he said.

“Drag culture is really interesting, as it exists within the queer community and for some it’s a real political statement.”

“For others it’s lifestyle, escapism or just a bit of fun. For some it’s their way of connecting to the queer community and I find that constantly fascinating.”

As Aaron has discovered through his interactions with drag artists, drag culture today is far more complex and sophisticated as opposed to the “trashy nightclub” tag it was once associated with.

He said for many, such as Dan Ewell (pictured), being a drag artist was more about transforming into an alter ego, which helped to illustrate that identity wasn’t bound by gender.

With plans to now create a book showcasing his portraits with stories from the drag artists themselves, he said he hoped to continue adding value to what was an important discussion.

“This experience has given me a lot of confidence to approach and sit with people and help them open up and feel comfortable,” he said.

“I learnt the things I wanted to learn but I also learned that you can position yourself politically and you can support an important cause through photography and it’s all about how you present it really.”

To view Aaron’s work visit aaronwalkerphotography.com

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