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"The Latex Ball" Through The Lens of Marcela Ferri

When it comes to modern notions of drag, NYC stalwartly stands as the undisputed birthplace. A culture forged in discriminatory flames of the ’80s, drag represented an opportunity to express oneself beyond the accepted conventions of society, and an outlet through which the LGBTQ community could seek safety and acceptance. While drag culture has rapidly begun to globalize and diversify over the past 10 years, drag will forever be remembered and irreversibly influenced by the legacy set forth by some of the first drag families and queens, here in NYC.

Today, we’re premiering a series of digital and analog photos captured by photographer, Marcela Ferri. A self-described “nightclub child”, Ferri’s connection and love for drag has inspired her to learn and explore the growing subculture. In order to truly tap into the unique energy of drag, Ferri went to the source—by attending “The Latex Ball” in NYC, an annual gathering where drag is celebrated and vogueing is (highly) encouraged. Be sure to read on and get a glimpse into what shooting drag is really like, and the tenants of drag culture that attract Ferri the most.

What draws you to explore drag? What about drag performers makes you interested in them as subjects of your work?

Drag is just one part of a broader body of work documenting the gender question and queer artists as a whole. Anyone who’s brave enough to leave the house wearing a wig, make up and heels knowing they can be harassed in many different ways is my hero, and this is a statement that will never change.

If just as a female navigating around can be tricky, try to put yourself in those guys heels, we are all in the same boat. Queer artists are thankfully receiving more recognition, having space and support to do more — it doesn’t matter if its fine arts, drag, rap, poetry, theatre, stand up comedy or something else. Look at amazing people like Anohni, Serpent with Feet, Aja, Aquaria, Janelle Monae, the artists from Mariah & Friends who I’ve been working with over the past year amongst many others, you don’t see people doing what they do out there, they are special. The level of craft, creativity and talent is beyond what they receive credit for and considering they are one of the many representations of what freedom is (and the core thematic of my practice is freedom) nothing more natural than have them as a subject.

What was your experience like shooting the Latex Ball? How do you manage to capture the energy of vogueing in still shots?

I’m a nightclub child. Those were the places where I understood who I was, the place where I managed to meet incredibly creative people, and most importantly, the place where I felt accepted and understood. There was no such thing as too much makeup, or “what the fuck are you wearing?”. It was open and free.

The Latex was incredible. The performances lasted around 7 hours and the categories would go from realness, to butch queen, to sex siren, to bizarre — all the while following this year’s main theme – “Kingdom”. The costumes and vogue battles were surreal and powerful, driving a crowd of around 2000 people to scream in awe. I was in love with all of that. Music plays a big part in my life and I’m Brazilian, meaning that I have an astronomical sensibility to music and having my body naturally following the beat is common place. That along with focus really helps when shooting musically lead performances as the dancers move quite fast, so it was easy to miss good shots if I wasn’t 100% connected.

Is highlighting under-covered/diverse perspectives a recurrent or overarching theme in your work?

It is definitely an ongoing subject. I think I mentioned here before that I was that weird kid looking for acceptance. I want to pay back to the community who did so much for me without even noticing.

I have examples of people around me that work in powerful positions in the corporate world and, at the same time, have to hide who they are from the machine because no one can know they like to cross dress eventually or something else, it can harm their careers. Gay parents who watch their kids being bullied because they have two dads or two moms. Or even using myself as an example, a woman with a tomboyish way of being, a sharp mind and with enough guts to fly around to create and push boundaries towards my beliefs — people are scared of that. There are so many examples who need a voice and representation, and when you think back and see that all they want is to be respected, there’s no way how I can stay at home petting my cat and do nothing about it.

What other exciting projects are you working on for the rest of 2018? 

I have my drag work being shown in  Amsterdam from the the 2nd of August which will run for a couple of months. Another bit of work is hanging at Arles at the “Family of No man” exhibition. I have a few Paris trips to shoot, the ongoing work with queer artists in London, a collaboration with some editors in Tokyo, some work for Brazil. Hopefully I’ll be back to the Mojave around Christmas and the good old R&D, which is a never ending process.

Images courtesy of Marcela Ferri

Stay tuned to Milk for more visual adventures into the world of drag. 

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