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Gerard H. Gaskin


“Gaskin’s awareness of the effect the performers have on the audience is a crucial aspect of his vision. Through his lens, he conveys the showmanship these actors and artists exude, their knowingness of the spectacle created by their flair. . . . He shows us the power the performers have to reveal themselves through spectacle, to challenge viewers to recognize this display of selfhood. Regardless of our walks of life, we are all looking for safe spaces to express ourselves. Legendary allows us to bear witness to a group of people who are courageous enough to create their safe space.”Deborah Willis, from her introduction

The balls are a celebration of black and Latino urban gay life. They were born in Harlem out of a need for black and Latino gays to have a safe space to express themselves. Balls are constructed like beauty and talent pageants. The participants work to redefine and critique gender and sexual identity through an extravagant fashion masquerade. Women and men become fluid, interchangeable points of departure and reference, disrupting the notion of a fixed and rigid gender and sexual self. My images try to show a more personal and intimate beauty, pride, dignity, courage, and grace that have been painfully challenged by mainstream society. All of this happens at night in small halls in cities all over the country. These photographs, taken in New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, and Washington, D.C., show us different views of these spaces as they are reflected in the eyes of house and ball members who perform what they wish these cities could be.”—Gerard H. Gaskin

An interview with Gerard H. Gaskin


Gerard H. Gaskin’s radiant color and black-and-white photographs take us inside the culture of house balls, underground events where gay and transgender men and women, mostly African American and Latino, come together to see and be seen. At balls, high-spirited late-night pageants, members of particular “houses”—the House of Blahnik, the House of Xtravaganza—”walk,” competing for trophies in categories based on costume, attitude, dance moves, and “realness.” In this exuberant world of artistry and self-fashioning, people often marginalized for being who they are can flaunt and celebrate their most vibrant, spectacular selves.

From the quiet backstage to the shimmering energies of the runway to the electricity of the crowd, Gaskin’s photographs take us to the ball. Legendary, comprised of photos taken at balls events in New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, and Washington, D.C., is a collaboration between Gaskin, a camera-laden observer who has been attending balls for twenty years, and the house members who let him enter the intimate world of ball culture. In addition to an introduction by Deborah Willis, Legendary includes an essay by Frank Roberts, “The Queer Undercommons.”

“For members of New York City’s underground house ball community, being photographed by Gerard H. Gaskin is a rite of passage: All of the legendary children appear in front of his lens at some point or another. Shy and cosmopolitan, Gaskin has become the Trinidadian Andy Warhol of this scene. He is one of the few heterosexual men who has been granted unfettered access to a world where being straight is queer. As far as the kids are concerned, he is ‘one of the children.’ As I have become acquainted with Gaskin’s visual work throughout the years, it seems clear to me that he is more than simply a documentary photographer—he is, rather, a sophisticated cultural historian committed to using photography as a way of archiving lost subcultural histories and queer lives. . . .”—Frank Roberts, from his essay “The Queer Undercommons”


For exhibition and events information for Legendary, visit PRESS

Legendary: Inside the House Ballroom Scene
Photographs by Gerard H. Gaskin
Introduction by Deborah Willis
With an essay by Frank Roberts
120 pages | 9 x 12 | 92 color and black-and-white photographs
$45.00, hardcover | ISBN 978-0-8223-5582-3

Available in November 2013 in bookstores or by ordering from Duke University Press


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