Legendary

Inside the House Ballroom Scene

Legendary

Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography

More about this series

Book Pages: 120 Illustrations: 92 photographs (incl. 34 in color) Published: November 2013

Author: Gerard H. Gaskin

Contributor(s): Deborah Willis, Frank Roberts

Subjects
African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Art and Visual Culture > Photography, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies

Gerard H. Gaskin's radiant color and black-and-white photographs take us inside the culture of house balls, underground events where gay and transgender men and women, mostly African American and Latino, come together to see and be seen. At balls, high-spirited late-night pageants, members of particular "houses"—the House of Blahnik, the House of Xtravaganza—"walk," competing for trophies in categories based on costume, attitude, dance moves, and "realness." In this exuberant world of artistry and self-fashioning, people often marginalized for being who they are can flaunt and celebrate their most vibrant, spectacular selves.

From the quiet backstage, to the shimmering energies of the runway. to the electricity of the crowd, Gaskin's photographs take us to the ball. Legendary, comprised of photos taken at events in the New York city area, Philadelphia, Richmond, and Washington, D.C., is a collaboration between Gaskin, a camera-laden outsider who has been attending balls for twenty years, and the house members who let him enter the intimate world of ball culture. In addition to an introduction by Deborah Willis, Legendary includes an essay, "The Queer Undercommons," by Frank Roberts.

Praise

“Tens across the board! Photographer Gerard H. Gaskin's new book Legendary provides a vivid pictorial examination of contemporary ball culture.” — Lambda Literary Review

“A lovingly devised coffee table book, winner of a now well established photography prize, Legendary, welcomes you into a fabulous world. This hall of mirrors is akin to the dazzling Emerald City of ‘some where over the rainbow’ fame.” — Kay Bourne, Edge

“Photographer Gerard H. Gaskin has put on a gorgeous show in his impressive new photo book. . . . Gaskin's collection of portraits of the primarily African-American and Latino queer competitive drag scene is both a work of art and of history, documenting drag ‘houses’ (or families) in New York and across the country as they strive for the most ‘realness’ in categories ranging from butch to femme and beyond.” — Brian Lowder, NY1 and Slate

Legendary is a beautiful, lavish portrayal of underground house ball culture . . . . For the ball walkers, who are limited in how they can express themselves in their everyday lives, Legendary honors the possibility of a truer self, performed.”
— Leo Hsu, Fraction Magazine

“On one hand, Legendary is a beautiful showcase of Gaskin’s talent for capturing moments and, in this case, a movement — his vibrant and stunning images bring us into the ballroom scene, and face-to-face with those who inhabit it. On the other hand, that sense of pulling away isn’t there. Not with me, when viewing the work; it doesn’t feel exploitative, nor opportunistic — there is no sense of discomfort. Instead, the work is marked by intimacy. The faces that are looking at us (and those that aren’t) show no sense of wanting to pull away. Perhaps it is Gaskin’s empathy and his skill at connecting to an individual and then to the viewer that make us want to lean in even closer.” — Melanie Archer, Caribbean Review of Books

"Gaskin's awareness of the effect the performers have on the audience is a crucial aspect of his vision. Through his lens, he conveys the showmanship these actors and artists exude, their knowingness of the spectacle created by their flair. . . . He shows us the power the performers have to reveal themselves through spectacle, to challenge viewers to recognize this display of selfhood. Regardless of our walks of life, we are all looking for safe spaces to express ourselves. Legendary allows us to bear witness to a group of people who are courageous enough to create their safe space." — Deborah Willis, prize judge

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Price: $45.00

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Gerard H. Gaskin, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, earned a B.A. from Hunter College in 1994 and is now a freelance photographer based in the greater New York City area. His photos have appeared in the New York Times, Newsday, Black Enterprise, OneWorld, Teen People, Caribbean Beat, and DownBeat. Among his other clients are the record companies Island, Sony, Def Jam, and Mercury. Gaskin's photographs have been featured in solo and group exhibitions across the United States and abroad, and his work is held in the collections of such institutions as the Museum of the City of New York and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

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