Photography by Magnus Hastings
A new photography exhibit opened at the Out NYC hotel (no relation) that features the work of Magnus Hastings. Hastings, whose subjects include Bianca del Rio, Courtney Act, Sharon Needles, Lady Bunny, DWV, and Jackie Beat, has been shooting drag queens for the past decade and continues to be inspired by them.
“Drag is the creative love of my life,” he said, “I view it as both a magical fantasy world and as an art form.” Hastings, explaining that art can be so varied in expression, compares his exhibit to displaying a “room full of Picassos.”
Hastings’ was initially beguiled by drag while visiting Sydney, Australia. There he met Vanity Faire, the first drag queen he ever photographed and his first inspiration. The portrait he took of her dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz is featured in the exhibition and is so dear to him that the original resides in his living room.
The queens that Hastings photographs love working with him because of his determination to get the perfect shot. He’s taken a straitjacket to Sharon Needles, gotten Courtney Act to go Dumpster diving and ran up and down the streets of West Hollywood with Adore Delano. “Some see it as chaos but I see it as mixing it up,” he said. “Shooting superb photos is about being able to come up with an idea instantly, trying it, and hoping it works.”
The exhibition, titled Why Drag?, asked its subject queens that exact question, so Hastings could understand the love they have for their craft. Just as the photos ranged from the epic to the salacious (a panoramic shot of more than 20 queens hung down the hall from a private room of very intimate Courtney Act images), the responses ranged from the sincere to the insane (Alaska Thunderfuck offered a bite-sized philosophical essay, while his ex, Sharon Needles, strung together sentences about whiskey and ghosts).
Why Drag? opened over Memorial Day weekend with a series of events that kicked off on Friday night when, next door to the hotel, at a packed 42West, Bianca del Rio hosted the rowdy “Hot Mess Drag Revue.” Lady Bunny failed to make her scheduled appearance, but in her stead, she sent a raunchy video parody of Katy Perry’s “Firework,” about an explosive hand job (we’ll spare you the details).
The hotel held a barbecue on Saturday, and Monday saw the official opening of the show where RuPaul’s Drag Race alums and other well-known queens were on-site. Willam Belli emceed and performed a dirty rendition of Britney Spears and Will.I.Am’s “Scream and Shout,” Courtney Act performed her latest single, “Mean Gays,” Asia Persuasia lip-synched to Janet Jackson’s “Feedback,” and Bob the Drag Queen lip-synched to “I’m A Slave 4 U” as part of a racially-charged satire. Dida Ritz and was present in drag while Phi Phi O’Hara and Jiggly Caliente attended out of drag.
The Why Drag? exhibit runs from now until August 26 in the lobby of the Out NYC hotel, 510 W. 42nd Street, before it begins touring other North American cities.