Free Range 2018’s logo. Courtesy of Free Range.
Free Range is an Old Truman Brewery special project, established by Tamsin O’Hanlon in 2001 to showcase the work of emerging creatives. Since its inception thousands of students have exhibited at the shows, taking over OTB spaces each summer and connecting with a London audience.
Exploring the space during Photography Week One, which run from 21 to 25 June, offers me a refreshing insight into the work of young talented photographers from different UK universities (to name a few: Edinburgh Napier University, University of the West of England, Falmouth University).
Generally speaking, Free Range tackles a plethora of themes, such as identity, belonging, sexuality, mental health and memory.
My post revolves around projects on drag culture by showcasing the work of Marco Bardusco-Brazier, Matthew Parker, Karen Stanley and Ellie Wick.
Karen Stanley is a London-based photographer graduate from the University of Westminster.
Focusing on colour, texture and emotion Karen tackles themes of gender, sexuality and politics in her work.
Her project Lewd Act, inspired by the front page of George Michael’s arrest for cruising in a public bathroom, reflects on ideas of normalcy and morality.
As a preliminary observation, the act of homosexual cruising have always been stigmatised: on a general level, bathrooms have played a crucial role as social hubs in the past and for these reasons, they have been deployed as set for Lewd Act.
As Karen recalled, Dilly Boys used toilets as the only places where they could meet other gay men in 1800’s Soho: with regards to this issue, it is fundamental to highlight that most of transgender people are still facing hate crimes for using the toilet of their choice.
Given these circumstances, we should reflect on this question: if this had been a heterosexual act, would it have been described the same way?
Karen’s idea of displaying guerrilla style imagery of drag queens and club kids (among the others, Lewis G. Burton, Niall Candy, Smiley Vyrus, Just May, Santi Storm and Tayce) shows the malleability of queer art, which is defined by its fluidity and nature of disrupting mainstream ideas of canon and display.
Aiming to extend queer visibility, Karen decided to create installations with her images in unconventional bathrooms across London, choosing conservative and wealthy areas such as Chelsea and Notting Hill: ultimately, giving voice to silenced narratives is the outcome of this beautiful project.
As Karen pointed out: ‘Why work like this isn’t shown in conservative or wealthy spaces, and only queer specific areas or one off exhibits?’.
Ferranti, F. (2018) Lewd Act: a project by Karen Stanley. London, Old Truman Brewery.
‘Think outside the box, make your own box and then work within that’ is the motto of Matt Parker, an Editorial, Portrait and Conceptual photographer from University of East London.
The project All Dragged Out charts the multiple facets of drag culture by exploring issues of body styling and make-up, features which contribute to the construction of the ultimate drag fantasy.
‘Models were shot in private locations, such as hotel rooms and bedrooms that are the scene of their transformation as well as in the studio where the end result can be brought to life by the camera. Drag is not just about dressing as the opposite gender but is a form of artistic self-expression which acknowledges no limits’, Matt said.
Ferranti, F. (2018) All Dragged Out: a project by Matt Parker. London, Old Truman Brewery.
Jinkx Monsoon for All Dragged Out. Courtesy of Matt Parker.
Shea Couleé for All Dragged Out. Courtesy of Matt Parker.
A Family Portrait: Alfie Ordinary, Lydia L’Scabies and Emily Meow for All Dragged Out. Courtesy of Matt Parker.
Next up, I would love to examine Urban Peacocks by University of West of England graduate Marco Bardusco Brazier.
Marco has always been fascinated by discourses that sit outside the ordinary and the mainstream, capturing individuals and communities who wrestle societal norms.
Combining film-making and photography, Urban Peacocks delves into the world of Bristol-based drag kings, drag queens, female drag queens and in-betweens (non-binary drag queens), featuring Carmen Monoxide, Alyssa Van Delle, Lady Windsor Rose and Ruby Rawbone.
Urban Peacocks: Carmen Monoxide. Courtesy of Marco Bardusco Brazier.
Urban Peacocks: Alyssa Van Delle. Courtesy of Marco Bardusco Brazier.
Urban Peacocks: Ruby Rawbone. Courtesy of Marco Bardusco Brazier.
To conclude, Ellie Clark‘s project Queens chronicles the process of drag metamorphosis.
Been brought up on film such as Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Birdcage and, more recently, developing a particular interest in Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Ellie wanted to gain more knowledge to complete this project.
As someone who is deeply interested in the beauty industry, she has a real admiration for the skill and the process of transformation and wanted to show this approach in a series of studio portraits with the main focus of accentuating the hair and the make-up.
She did this by making the models surroundings a true black to make the colour pop and shine through. The use of coloured gels in her work aims to give the face an increased dimension by conveying a sense of joy and entertainment.
By printing on a large scale the project allows the viewer to inspect the face in great detail.
Drags. Courtesy of Ellie Clark.
To know more about the upcoming shows visit Free Range website or Instagram or join the conversation through the hashtags #freerangeshows and #SUPPORTNEWTALENT .