Diane Arbus & Christer Strömholm
Melissa – Hollywood, CA
A selection from A Day in the Life of a Drag Queen artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. –
When I first got the idea for this project, I didn’t know any better, so I lumped drag queens, transvestites and transgender devotees all into one pile. The title A Day in the Life of a Drag Queen is kinda a misnomer for the book. It should have been called A Day in the Life of a Transwoman…or T girl…or Transgender…or Shemale…or Transsexual…or Ladyboy…or Tranny.
But I didn’t learn about these variations until I was well into the project. Photography allows us to delve deeper into an area and learn things we may not have known before. Sometimes this is from studying the fragments of time (photos) at leisure. Other times it comes about through discovery related to shooting the project.
But I didn’t like any of those ‘T’ choices for titles, so I stuck with the Drag Queen title. (Plus I already bought an ISBN # for it at Bowker.) Since I pay all the bills and am completely self-funded with my projects, I don’t have to answer to a publisher…I do what I like. As an added benefit to the original title, it opens up the discussion to educate others on the topic.
I originally got the idea for this book in August 2015, a few months after I was working with some photos from my archive of Barbara LeMay. I thought to myself, ‘Why didn’t I do a book on Bab’s when she was alive?”
Barbara ‘Babs’ LeMay, Hollywood , CA circa early 1970’s…
Well, when I was 20, I guess the thought never occurred to me. Back then, if I got a nice pix for my portfolio I was satisfied. When I get an idea nowadays, I try and act on it as soon as possible and also work it in depth. So that is where the A Day in the Life of a Drag Queen project originated from.
Arnold…a UCLA college student that liked women’s’ nighties. Los Angeles, circa early 1970’s…
I think every gender bender, whatever their end goal is, started out as a cross dresser to get a taste of being a woman. As I did some homework on the subject I could see that a T gal is very different from your garden variety transvestite / drag queen / cross dresser.
Joe…a man wanting to be a woman circa early 1970’s…
A true T gal has put in a lot of time, money and energy transitioning in various degrees from male to female. She grows plump breasts and womanly nipples from taking HRT and sometimes supplements them with breast implants. She loses muscles, develops hips and soft, hairless skin. Her voice may change and some have painful surgery for cosmetic reasons and to remove the penis and replace it with a vagina.
Gender bending all starts with a little pill nowadays.
Here is a list of areas the transwoman works on:
Self-esteem / Self-acceptance
Socialization as female
Future employment prospects
Sex Reassignment Surgery
Legal / Name change / Gender marker change
Whereas, the only work the transvestite / drag queen / cross dresser does is to put on some women’s clothes and makeup.
Jennifur…a transvestite / cross dresser circa early 1970’s…
The gender transitioning technology has improved a lot over the years. The next photo is a transwoman circa early 1970’s. I titled it Traveling Transvestite. Back in the day we did not have all the nomenclature we have now. If we did, I’d have called it Traveling Transwoman.
A transwoman from Amsterdam taken in 2014
Over a 24 hour period spanning 2 days, I spent 4-1/2 hours of intensive shooting with a T girl named Melissa. (formerly Curtis) The shoot had 2 main time frames – day and evening. Melissa gave me full run of her home for documenting whatever I liked. Most of the photography is posed, but I was able to get a few candid shots when Melissa wasn’t looking.
Gay Bar with Friend – Hollywood, CA (Candid)
Infrared flash photograph taken in the dark
A Day in the Life of a Drag Queen takes you into one transwoman’s lifestyle as an open book.
I was kinda hesitant about taking on such a project as I an not that skilled in posing people for staged photography. All my skill is in candid street and documentary photography. Here are some samples of my documentary work.
In fact, in my nearly 50 years pushing the button, this is the only fashion / glamour related project I ever shot. I’ve shot many trans people in my career, but I never had to make them look especially good. Part of the agreement with Melissa was to give her some nice photos from the shoot. Melissa made it very easy for me to be a wannabe glam photog. It was like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel. Almost every pose she struck was a keeper.
Now, only having 4-1/2 hours to shoot for an entire book is not a lot of time. Melissa is a very busy gal working day and night to make ends meet. I am in L.A. working on 6 book projects, I’m averaging 3 to 4 hours of sleep a night, so we are both short on time. Beside expertise in candid photography, my other skill is in working fast…extremely fast. 4-1/2 hours of intensive shooting for me is like a week of shooting for average camera fondler out there. The hallmark of the skilled documentary photog is that they produce with what time constraints or other problems they are under.
These are just a few samples from the shoot. Overall I am very happy with what I got.
Further reading : Gender Benders from the 1970s