Artworks
Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi
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ajardini's picture

Sr. Editor

Nan Goldin and I share an obsession. It involves men in corsets, make-up, sequins and sky-high heels.

Whether they're glamazon beauty queens lip-synching to Cher on RuPaul’s hit television show, or the more subversive performers that haunt the gritty stages of dive bars, there’s no getting around it: drag queens are everything.

At the start of her photography career, Goldin became transfixed by men in drag. She understands their identities as a “third gender” that somehow escapes the narrow confines of man vs. woman. She is quick to explain that her pictures are not meant to show the “true” person underneath (whatever that means). Instead, these intimate portraits simply show her friends as they were and how she saw them: completely fabulous...but real, too. This dramatic candidness is a running theme in all of Goldin’s work, and certainly applies to this photograph from the early 1990s, the era in which she became friends with a new crowd of New York queens and her love for lace fronts was renewed.

I think what makes her photographs so interesting is the lack of manipulation. These are not the airbrushed, soft-lit celebrities one is used to seeing. (As diva Manila Luzon once stated, “drag and daytime do not go together.”) But instead of the artifice that studio lighting affords, we see Misty and Jimmy Paulette as ordinary people in a cab, some tears in their clothes, make-up not flawless. These details give the photograph authenticity, which is an issue that lies at the heart of drag culture. Who is your authentic self? Aren’t we all performing drag, always? ...And wouldn’t we look better doing it in gold lamé?