When Brooklyn-based photographer Van Sarki found out his college friend Gin Minsky happened to moonlight as a popular burlesque tap dancer in New York City, a new side of his friend was revealed to him. For Sarki, learning that his longtime pal had a second persona got him thinking of the ways in which different parts of our psyche express themselves. “I am a believer that people have multiple personalities. Hundreds if not thousands,” he explains. “We can be a great many things.”
In his upcoming book project, Burl Esque, Sarki reveals the multiple personalities of over 20 stars of the New York burlesque scene. Each performer is presented to us in three pages. The first is a compilation of Polaroid photos, the second is a portrait of the performer in their lavish performance costumes, and the third is a photo of the performers stripped of any makeup, jewelry, or costumes.
Through Sarki’s photographs, we are invited to see these performers as if they are our old friends. Scotty the Blue Bunny takes off his ears, Darlinda Just Darlinda becomes just Dalinda, and we see them as they wake up in the morning; no fake eyelashes, no wigs, no clothes.
“There's certainly a level of trust that someone must have with a photographer to completely strip themselves of aesthetic armor. I hate being in front of the camera so I certainly couldn’t do it,” Sarki said in a recent interview. “There were a few that flat out said, 'No,' and there were others that asked if they could just wear something, but mostly everyone seemed to embrace the idea and get behind it.”
His photographs contrast their favorite glittered, made-up, and masked persona as well as their most natural and intimate state, aiming to capture the most complete representation of these burlesque celebrity.
View Van Sarki's Kickstarter campaign for Burl Esque. Or watch the video below.