His photographs of scantily clad men have gone down a storm on Insta – amassing nearly 300k followers of those seeking to soak up the male form – but for his latest project, US based photographer Jeremy Kost has put the lens on drag queens in all their unique and outlandish guises.
Shooting his subjects on Polaroid and smearing the images with paint to serve up a unique textured effect, Kost has been photographing the stars of the drag scene since 2001, snapping some even before they became household names as a result of RuPaul induced fame. The result of this on-going project is Like One of Your French Girls, a perfectly produced photo book featuring archive imagery dating back to 2009 and featuring the likes of Sharon Needles, Detox Icunt and Alaska Thunderfuck, a.k.a. all your fave queens.
Following the book’s London launch at The Edition, hosted by our fave UK queen Jodie Harsh, we caught up with Kost to talk about the creative process behind his latest work.
What inspired you to create Like One of Your French Girls?
It happened by mistake to be honest. I was working on a painting on the wall of my NYC place and took it too far. Out of frustration, I swiped a Polaroid of a dude through the oilstick on the canvas and loved the mistaken result! I’ve continued to refine the idea both in application and conceptual focus; I’m making progress all the time. With drag queens, there really is an amazing relationship between makeup and paint. In fact, queens often say that they’re “painting” their faces! It also has to do with masking, concealing, revealing, colour, mixing, contrast… It’s a perfect conceptual balance I think!
And what led you to choose drag queens – as opposed to men, for example – as the subject for the book?
To be honest, I’ve sort of been a bit burned out shooting dudes for the last year or so. I didn’t shoot anything else between fall of 2012 and spring of 2016 and have been looking for inspiration again; I found that in my return to drag queens and I’ve been making new work with them since. 90% of the Polaroids in this book are from my archives (largely between 2009 and 2012). They were either extra portraits made for a larger collage (earlier work) or a single Polaroid that I made for posterity, given that the iPhone camera wasn’t what it is today. This specific book came as a direct result of knowing that I wanted to make a book of the painted work with drag queens, and revisiting these images was a way to give it breadth and diversity of subject, place, and such. It also allowed me a golden opportunity to connect the dots between my older work and where I’m going with the new painted works I’m making in the studio now.
You touched on it before, but can you talk to us specifically about the paint on the Polaroids?
With this specific body of work, they were all individually considered. I’d mix different colours on palettes and then look at their relationship to each other. Once I was happy with a relationship and the way things felt, I’d find a Polaroid in the archive stacks that “worked” with the paint that I’d laid down. Sometimes it would work in an opposite direction… I knew I wanted to include a specific Polaroid in the body of work and I’d make something that felt right. The images of Amanda Lepore with Tommy are a perfect example of that sort of reverse process!
Some of the images date back to 2009, was a book always in the pipeline?
Not at all to be honest. They were things in my archives that I didn’t have any grand plans for. As I mentioned, they were made when I was making other works. They really are the perfect way of connecting the dots between where I’m going and the work I made previously in my career.