Atlanta Drag Queen Photo Exhibit Forced to Censor Images
A new photo exhibit in Atlanta champions legends of the drag queen community. But some, forced to view the images every day, have requested that the more risqué ones be covered up or relocated.
The art exhibit, "Legendary Children," at Gallery 1526 at 1526 DeKalb Ave., NE, includes photos of some of Atlanta’s most raucous drag queens. But employees of other businesses in the same building have expressed discomfort with the daily barrage of images, some of which appear to them to be pornographic.
"Can you please remove the porn-style money shot from our door? I asked John to relocate his photo, but he refused, citing his contract with you -- and I don’t not want to impede your business in any way," wrote Dov Jacobson, managing director of GamesThatWork.com in a Sept. 9 email to gallery owner and curator Melanie Bell. "I am responsible to provide a comfortable working environment for my employees, and it is uncool (and probably illegal) for me to ask them to walk past a big red mouthful of oozing sperm every day. Put it someplace else -- I don’t care, but not on our doorway please."
According to an article in the Georgia Voice, Jacobson has already asked Bell to cover up two other images of drag queen Violet Chachki: a full frontal nude and another, taken by Blake England from behind, in which you can clearly see the drag queen’s balls.
Bell complied with Jacobson request, responding to him that, "it’s not really sperm in the image... it’s smoke and mirrors/ special effects... not porn. If it were porn, I would never have hung it. Promise. I did cover the exposed parts (balls on the walls as you put it) on the other images so that everyone was more comfortable."
The photos now have a Post-It over the offending parts that reads, "Censored until closing night. If you want to look, please lift. Thanks, Gallery 1526."
While Bell insisted the images are not porn, Jacobson was certain that they were. In a Sept. 10 email, he explained the concept of the "money shot" to Bell, adding, "It is surprising that you do not respect this request to move it away from our door." He said that the images have prevented some of his clients from bringing their children to his business.
"I will switch the two amazing photographs so that the image is not directly in front of your door," wrote Bell to Jacobson before adding, "I will tell you as a woman your emails in regards to the images to me are far more filthy than the image itself could ever be and I don’t care how much porn you watch. You have used more vulgar terms than I have heard in quite sometime."
While Jacobson was likely just protecting his business, artists and the gallery owner have pegged his response as homophobic and bigoted. Photographer Jon Dean said, "What year is this? In Atlanta we sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that we are immune to these kind of backward thinking idiots."
"It’s a sad reminder that we have a long way to go when it comes to acceptance in the South, particularly. Right now I’m feeling very protective over them [photographers and drag queens], as we’ve all become a dysfunctional type of family. We’ve all put our hearts into this work. People need to be made uncomfortable sometimes. What you say is indecent, I say is fabulous!" Dean added.
Blake England, who photographed the two photos in question of Violet Chachki, said censorship never works.
"I hope queers and drag queens make people feel uncomfortable. I pray people find all this morbidly fascinating if not beautiful or sexy. I think that taking people out of their comfort zones and getting them to care about something, whether it be love or hate, is exactly what we’re trying to do as photographers and performers," he said.
"Censoring us is not going to work, we can keep giving you plenty of material to cover up. We want the creeps and bigots to hate us, how else would we know we’re doing something right?" England said.
The exhibit is getting a lot of press both locally and nationally, and the Sept. 28 closing show will include a drag performance of the ten queens featured in the show, according to their website. The five photographers will be on hand to sell their works and discuss the exhibit.
"Straights, lesbians, transfolk ... people young and old and racially diverse - Atlanta’s legendary children connect with wider queer allies while strengthening social ties within their community," reads their press release. "Crowds come to see these queens perform the most off-the-wall and entertaining drag in the Southeast. Edie Cheezburger, ’rudeness in a wig,’ delights audiences with jaw-dropping performances that range from Helen Keller to a Boca Raton retiree. Lavonia Elberton enchants as the only no-class, trailer-trash, gender fart witch in town. Violet Chachki wields feminine power as the city’s preeminent burlesque queen."
For more information, visit http://www.legendarychildrenatlanta.com/