Idolatry: Gilles Larrain’s 70s Transvestite Portraits

May 16, 2012

Who can possibly resist the glamour, extravagance & strange allure of  drag queens!? After seeing these images from Gilles Larrain’s 1973 book, Idols, documenting the 1970s New York transvestite scene, I am dying to get my hands on the 2011 version, which includes even more selections from his archives. Also dying to have some raging dress-up parties and dive headfirst into some eyelash glue and glitter. Gilles’ portraits of the scene’s stars, including some of the infamous San Francisco Cockettes, are outrageous, slightly sentimental, and fabulous documentation of a ravenously experimental moment in time and identity.

There’s a great interview of Gilles by Ryan McGinley in Vice from two years ago in which Gilles explains the process of making the images, which adds another oddly romantic dimension to the portraits:

“It was a mixture of so many things. There was no formula; it was pure improvisation. We had lot of junk lying around and they came by in groups of 20 or 30, and they all shared things, having fun with makeup, playing with wigs and whatever. There was no direction. There was no intent to be specifically fashiony. It was purelydivertissement, in the French sense—to have fun, create fun, and live fun. To enjoy the moment. Louis XV was great at that. Crazy parties in Versailles. Food, sex, everything. It was then that fashion began to move and be created. The culture of fashion comes from that time…

There were no designers, no art director, no makeup people, no stylists, none of those things that define a fashion shoot. It was completely improvised.”



Images via Behance, see more of Gilles’ Idols and other works on his website.

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