Photographer and zine creator Greg Bailey on the creative process behind his gag-worthy new drag book.
Who knew that while the queens were untucking backstage, a British photographer was capturing the candid beauty of the drag scene. Greg Bailey spills the T and shares his favourite snaps, including an exclusive image of Sasha Velour!
Brighton-based photographer Greg Bailey is about to release his first book, and to say it’s ‘sickening’ or a ‘slay’ is a mothertucking understatement. Alright Darling? is – in Greg’s words – “a visual celebration of the uninhibited, unapologetic and unafraid wonderland of contemporary drag”.
The collection features legendary Drag Race alumni such as Adore Delano, Alaska, Bob the Drag Queen, Katya, Latrice Royale and Sharon Needles – along with iconic performers Coco Peru and BibleGirl – who showcase their wit and shade alongside their fiercest lewks.
Here, we speak to Greg about how the artform is changing the world, hilarious experiences with the queens, and why it’s important to highlight the fact that drag isn’t just Drag Race.
What inspired you to compile your photos into one incredible book?
Having your own book as a photographer is the goal. It’s always something that I would’ve tried to do even if a publisher hadn’t picked it up. Emphasis on ‘tried’! It’s difficult to do without a publisher. I was looking through the files on my computer, and it was hard not to see it as a book. It was all there. I had all the imagery already, and I think it would be such a waste to just sit there. It needed to be made. Luckily, they wanted to do it.
I had the picture of Katya on the table as my iPhone background for a while...
That was such a fun shoot to do. That was the second time I met her, and the first time I met her was in Brighton. We did a little shoot together at Revenge, and then I wanted to make something out of it so I did some more work with her. I went up to her hotel in London, and hung out with her and Detox and shot some pictures. She’s just such a character, awesome to work with, and doesn’t care about looking stupid which is fantastic. Me and my partner once went to meet her, and she was getting ready for a show. She opened the hotel room door, pointed at my partner and said, ‘You’re a Slytherin!’ I was like, ‘Yeah, he is’. It was perfection.
What are the other funny experiences you’ve had with queens?
I was at a show with a whole bunch of Drag Race queens, and I left my stuff in Raja’s hotel room. She wasn’t finished at the club – typical Raja – so I got a cab back to the hotel with Delta Work, which was lovely. She’s a lovely queen. We got out the cab, crossed the courtyard to the reception, and her sweatpants fell completely down. Like, around her ankles. It was one of those classic You’ve Been Framed sort of videos. And bless her, she was carrying loads of stuff as well, so it wasn’t a quick recovery! I was just like, ‘This is a flirting tactic’.
Is there anyone you haven’t shot that you’d like to work with in the future?
I could list so many Drag Race queens that I’d like to work with, but the non Drag Race queens would be Varla Jean Merman, Panty Bliss, Dame Edna – that would be amazing. I’d quite like to work with more UK queens to be honest, and see what Wales, Ireland and Scotland have to offer. I’d also love to go to Japan, explore the drag culture there. Poland, New Zealand...
Do you think it’s important to highlight the fact that drag isn’t just Drag Race?
Drag Race isn’t a complete representation of drag. The show is obviously progressing and started to show more sides of drag, like they now have bearded queen challenges, and they’re trying to be more visible with transgender contestants. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the biest Drag Race fans, and it’s the reason why I can do what I can do now. But there’s also drag kings, drag princes, club kids, bearded queens, non-binary performers, female drag queens. There’s so much more that we can look at. I also don’t think people should be mad at Drag Race for not showing that. I think if anything, it should give life to new TV shows. You can’t expect one TV show to represent everything. Let’s make new platforms for it, new opportunities. Drag isn’t just white, cisgendered gay men. It can belong to anyone.
Is working with all these amazing drag queens the dream job?
It’s only just recently where I’ve started thinking of it as a job. I’ve worked full time in retail for the last ten years, and still do, so I’ve had to do all my photography on weekends. I have to book holidays