An intimate portrait of community in the drag scene

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Ardelle Schneider’s upcoming photobook captures the glitz and the glamour of life as a performer, but also quieter moments of everyday life

In the Spring of 2019, Ardelle Schneider met Adora, a drag queen based in Cologne, Germany. Adora opened her world to the young photographer, inviting her to photograph her inner circle of drag queens. Schneider had become interested in the scene after watching Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary Paris is Burning, as well as through the work of Nan Goldin. “I was fascinated by the art form, the act of transformation and the duality between self-portrayal and the perception of others,” says Schneider. “ It’s a kind of interaction between the act of covering and revealing.”

Many of the queens she met said their role models were in the US, and that they hoped to grow their local scene in Germany. In an attempt to understand this influence, Schneider decided to travel wider. She got in touch with Opal, a drag queen based in Miami, and flew over to meet her. “Within a short period of time, I felt the closeness and perceptiveness that existed in the community,”says Schneider. “I was welcomed with open arms, I made new friends, and I learned the meaning of the word identity on a new level.”

Schneider’s upcoming photobook – which she is currently raising funds to publish –  is a broad and intimate insight into the drag scene in the US. The publication captures the glitz and the glamour of life as a performer, but also quieter moments of everyday life. Many images are made in darkness – action shots from inside a club, or moments charged with anticipation as the queens prepare to perform. But, there are also photographs soaked in daylight; traditional portraiture that depicts a softer side beneath the make-up and wigs. 

“It was important to me that the sensitivity within the community was shown,” says Schneider. “When I portray a person, I try to depict them as I perceive them… Photography serves me as a means to bring out what is inside, and carry it to the outside.”

Ardelle Schneider is currently raising funds to publish Butterflies and Caterpillars. 

Marigold Warner

Online Editor

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.