An honest representation
Two souls one vessel is a documentary project focusing on capturing the lives of drag queens, trying to tell their stories and create an honest representation of who they are in and out of drag, this series includes male, female and transgender drag queens.
Attracted to the surface glamour of the world of drag queens, I’ve explored the performance and behind the scenes to show the emotion and reality.
Thinking about the project and the aesthetic choices I made to shoot in black and white it made me think about the perspective. Why did I choose to photograph in black and white? Why did I choose to eliminate the colour when what the subjects are wearing is so glamorous? While creating this work these questions continued to prop up. To address the fact, I was losing the colour pallet while shooting very traditionally in black and white I decided to make transfers of the beautiful make up the artists were creating using face wipes to accompany my portraits. This allowed the viewer to see a very accurate version of the mask they create every time they get into drag. The bright coloured abstract portraits can be found on my website.
The series was done in black and white to create a raw representation of the people in my images. I wanted the pictures to speak to the audience on a deeper level, so they could connect with the performers without being distracted by all of all the surface glamour.
Connecting with people
While working on this ongoing project I was able to learn about a different art form and connect with people all over the country. I visited Brighton several times to shoot the subjects in my main body of images. I am intending to display the full series at Brighton fringe, and the abstract portrait face transfers large scale in a gallery as a separate body of work in the near future. The project has been made into a book which includes text quoted from interviews with the individuals alongside the images which gives the viewer a greater understanding of who they are as people and performers.
I have a lot of respect and adoration for the people in my photographs, I have never felt so welcome and included in a community while doing a photography project. I have made friendships and learnt so much along the way and can honestly say it was a pleasure.
Film used –ILFORD FP4 Plus
Format - 35mm & 120mm
Camera –Nikon Em – 50mm Mamiya C3
Location – Brighton
Drag performers included in the project
- Alfie Ordinary
- Lydia l’Scabies
- Fushcia Von Steel
- Emily Meoww
- Amber Leaf
- Felix le Freak
- Sue Gives a F**k
- Rococo Channel
- Daphne the 10 year old
- Dick Day
About The Author
Ema Jayne Johnston
After studying TV and Media production at college and exploring analogue processes, I went on to study photography full time for a further year. This led me to progress onto an undergrad course in Photography and moving image and explore all of my interests. I am now a recent graduate from the University of Lincoln finishing with a 1st class honours degree and am currently working towards a masters at Nottingham Trent University studying Commercial Photography.
As a photographer, I am an observer, a creator and an author. It is my intention to make the people who view my photographs aware of the reality. Exploring light and environment I look for the abnormal in the normal, the unusual in the simple and the beautiful in the ordinary. I create documentary photography as an act of love and solidarity with those who are most vulnerable in society. I feel that photography is much more than just an art but also a voice to help raise awareness about a need for social change.
website – www.emajaynesphotography.co.uk