One of the most fierce, campy and beautiful coffee table books to come out in recent years is a masterpiece entitled, “DRAGS” by New York City fashion photographer, Gregory Kramer. The idea for the book came about almost like an epiphany.
Kramer expressed to Dazed and Confused Magazine, he got inspired by the idea of doing a book of well-produced portraits of the most prolific drag queens (and kings), after looking through the pages of Small Trades –the Irving Penn portrait series which captured dedicated workers from various occupations in their work uniforms.
No matter the subject, Penn emerged as a master of photography in the 1950s, one who could capture even the gruffest subjects with subtle neutrality, and gentle softness, allowing the genuine personality to shine through. Kramer sought to do this with drag queens as a celebration of their unique self-identity –much like the proud workers had been photographed.
As Kramer’s book showcases some of the greatest drag queens ever, it is important not just as a piece that depicts the art of drag but also the diversity within the drag community itself, transcending race, ethnicity, and social status.
Many people, of course, know the incomparable RuPaul. He helped usher drag into the mainstream as a towering (literally) drag figure and TV host, beginning with the campy “The RuPaul Show” on VH1 in the early 90s. Today, he’s won multiple Emmy award for his hit show “Drag Race,” and he’s received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Everybody loves Ru, but Kramer’s book succeeds in showing many other drag greats as well, starting with the book’s cover girl Sasha Velour, a winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race in recent years.
A few of the other drag queens captured in the book are Charles Busch, Lady Bunny, Duelling Bankheads, Sherry Vine, Tobell Von Cartier, and a few drag Kings too.
Drags (KMW Studio), serves as a sort of a yearbook of the drag world with every subject having evolved or “graduated” to the best incarnation of their most magnificent self, all captured for a charitable purpose.
I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Gregory Kramer at Drag Con New York City. He, along with iconic drag queen Flotilla Debarge, personally signed my copy of Drags, and they shared that the book was also a charity effort to raise funds for the Ali Forney Center. Kramer explained, “I’m donating my author’s royalties to the Ali Forney Center, and we kicked off the book launch with a gala event to raise additional money and more awareness as well. It’s a significant cause, and this is a way to give back to the community.”
Kramer credits the notable New York drag queen Linda Simpson as one of his most prolific photo subjects. She helped him connect with some of his book’s featured drag queens as well as introduce him to the Ali Forney Center, an organization that provides safety and shelter to homeless and at-risk LGBTQ teens and young adults.
Check out this magnificent book and support a great cause at the same time.