In 2005, New York–based photographer Lucas Michael began rephotographing Andy Warhol’s portrait series “Ladies and Gentlemen,” using contemporary artists channeling the energy of drag queens and transgender women who appeared in the original series in the 1970s. When Michael was asked to photograph the performers and artists who were part of “Contemporary Drag,” a program curated by Gordon Robichaux (the artists Sam Gordon and Jacob Robichaux) for the 2017 NADA New York festival, he couldn’t say no. Things had come full circle.
“Drag culture is a super-important aspect of culture. In many ways, it’s always a little bit ahead of the curve. It takes so much from popular culture and high culture and is this amazing hybrid. I don’t think there’s that many cultural movements that are able to do that so succinctly and entertainingly,” Michael told the Cut about the opportunity to shoot the contemporary scene.
“Contemporary Drag,” which took place from March 2–5, was a series of panels, video screenings, performances, and a NADA x Print All Over Me clothing collaboration that sought to highlight intergenerational performers, artists, and cultural figures who have contributed to drag culture. Using the same type of Polaroid camera Warhol once used, Michael took vibrant behind-the-scenes portraits of the performers and artists including the likes of Lady Bunny, Horrorchata, and Tyler Ashley, a.k.a. “the Dauphine of Bushwick.”
Michael felt using a Polaroid camera caused his subjects to pose differently than they normally would have. “The object of the Polaroid itself is unique and un-reproducible,” Michael explained. “If you use a camera like an SLR with a thousand images in a minute, I’m sure I would get amazing images, but I wouldn’t be just getting that one image.”
Click ahead to see Michael’s behind-the-scenes Polaroids of Patti Spliff, Chris of Hur, current RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Sasha Velour, and others.