Legendary: Inside the House Ballroom Scene

Monday, November 4, 2013 - 9:00am to Saturday, February 22, 2014 - 5:00pm
Gerard H. Gaskin
Juanita Kreps Gallery

Legendary: Inside the House Ballroom Scene features photographs by 2012 CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography winner Gerard H. Gaskin. Celebrated curator and photographer Deborah Willis chose Gaskin's longtime project to win this prestigious biennial prize. His radiant color and black-and-white photographs take us inside the culture of house balls, and "in search of beauty...open our eyes to an extraordinary community of artists who are performing beauty," says Willis. At these late-night underground pageants, gay and transgender men and women, mostly African American and Latino, come together to see and be seen; 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 events in the New York City area, 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.

The Legendary exhibit features selected photographs from a new book of the same name published by Duke University Press and the Center for Documentary Studies as part of the First Book Prize. In addition to an introduction by Deborah Willis, Legendary: Inside the House Ballroom Scene includes an essay, “The Queer Undercommons,” by Frank Roberts. Available in bookstores or by ordering from Duke University Press.