QUEEN SEEN

The troupes. The clubs. The stars. The 2014 drag is­sue.

GA Voice - - Front Page - By DYANA BAGBY dbagby@the­gavoice.com

Two years ago, Blane Bussey picked up a cam­era and started pho­tograph­ing At­lanta drag queen Edie Cheezburger out­side her nat­u­ral habi­tat of night­clubs and bars.

Plac­ing a glo­ri­ous drag star in so-called nor­mal set­tings ap­pealed to the 30-year-old artist, and Bussey hasn’t put down his cam­era since.

“This was noth­ing I ever thought I would get in­volved with,” he says from the liv­ing room of the house in West At­lanta he shares with Nathaniel Jef­frey, aka Mo’Dest Vol­gare.

“I didn’t go to drag shows. I was one of those peo­ple that al­ways said, ‘there are so many drag shows in this town.’ Then I shot Edie and it was so in­ter­est­ing how they came out.”

The idea of shoot­ing queens was part of an idea to put dif­fer­ent kinds of gay peo­ple in nat­u­ral set­tings. When he was shoot­ing Edie in a wooded area, for ex­am­ple, a Latino fam­ily walked into the shoot.

“It was in­ter­est­ing to see all the dif­fer­ent types of peo­ple com­ing to­gether. Th­ese are peo­ple you would think don’t nec­es­sar­ily get along. But that ex­change with that fam­ily was amaz­ing. What we were do­ing could be seen as be­ing quite weird. But we took the shame out of it and pro­jected it as a fun thing to do,” he says.

SEEK­ING ALL GEN­ER­A­TIONS OF ‘LEG­ENDARY CHIL­DREN’

Bussey is one of the found­ing mem­bers of Leg­endary Chil­dren, a team of queer South­ern artists cel­e­brat­ing At­lanta’s new ris­ing stars in the drag scene.

Bussey is now fo­cus­ing his en­ergy to­ward the his­tory of At­lanta’s drag scene and seek­ing out pho­tos from the past to in­clude in fu­ture pho­tog­ra­phy in­stall­ments. So far, he’s got a box of old pho­tos from Ni­cole Paige Brooks rep­re­sent­ing the early 2000s.

So far, though, Brooks’ pho­tos are the only ones he’s been given. He’s hop­ing oth­ers will be will­ing to trust him with their mem­o­ries so he can help record the “leg­endary chil­dren” of years past.

“Drag queens are not all like what you see on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’” he says. “Some have been here for­ever. They have lived in­ter­est­ing lives. I want to doc­u­ment their ex­pe­ri­ences. And that’s the trick part—get­ting them to loan me their pho­tos.”

Bussey en­vi­sions per­haps blow­ing some of the old pho­tos up, putting them on Tum­blr, cre­at­ing shows around the ac­tual prints.

The idea came to him after the first Leg­endary Chil­dren show.

“We had th­ese big prints and Mo’Dest asked what will hap­pen to them after we are dead,” Bussey says. So what does hap­pen to pho­tos taken of a cer­tain point in time that are a snap­shot of At­lanta’s LGBT life? There are LGBT his­tory projects at lo­cal li­braries and univer­si­ties where some of this is archived. But Bussey is go­ing for a spe­cific sub­set of gay cul­ture—the en­ter­tain­ers who, he says, paved the road for much of the free­dom he can en­joy as an openly gay man.

“Doc­u­ment­ing their lives is im­por­tant be­cause it shows re­spect. I re­spect what they have done for me. What they did in our com­mu­nity cre­ated a com­mu­nity for me to be in,” he says. Also, it’s in­ter­est­ing to no­tice the changes over the years in clothes, the com­mu­nity, the queens them­selves.

FAM­ILY PAR­AL­LELS

A pre­lim­i­nary showcase of his ar­chive project is a photo al­bum in­clud­ing pic­tures from Ni­cole Paige Brooks’ early days, his early life as a young gay man liv­ing in New York and Po­laroid snap­shots of his fam­ily. All are from about the same year, around 2000. For Bussey, com­bin­ing drag fam­ily with his bio-

Top: Gay artist Blane Bussey cap­tures At­lanta drag queens Mo’Dest Vol­gare and Ni­cole Paige Brooks rid­ing MARTA.

Above and right: Blane Bussey is ar­chiv­ing older pic­tures from At­lanta’s drag scene, in­clud­ing th­ese of Ni­cole Paige Brooks and EJ Aviance, as part of a project to doc­u­ment the scene’s his­tory. (Cour­tesy Blane Bussey) log­i­cal fam­ily is im­por­tant to the project and shows how the two play sig­nif­i­cant roles in his life as a gay man.

“Ni­cole and Mo’Dest are my fam­ily now. I wanted to show the par­al­lels,” he says.

Bussey funds his art work­ing as a strip­per at Swing­ing Richards and as a bar-back at Jun­gle. He hopes one day to make a full­time liv­ing do­ing the work he loves.

And one day, he hopes, the large prints of drag queens hang­ing in his home will be hang­ing in a mu­seum or on the walls of some­one else’s home.

“I want to rep­re­sent the di­ver­sity in our world through my work. That is my main mis­sion,” he says. “I don’t want things to be ex­clu­sion­ary. I lived so much of my life feel­ing ex­cluded.”

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