Paul Elliott Captures Phoenix's Drag Scene with "This D**k Walks Into a Bar" at Eye Lounge
Melissa Fossum Paul Elliott's portraits of Coco St. James at Eye Lounge
Anyone who has watched RuPaul's Drag Race for at least 10 minutes can vouch for the magic of drag. Seeing a burly man (eyebrows optional) transform into a gorgeous woman is more entertaining than you might think. The process isn't easy, thanks to tucking and creating the illusion of a feminine silhouette, but the end result can lip-synch like nobody's business.
Local photographer Paul Elliott captures that magic in his exhibition "This D**k Walks Into a Bar," which is open to the public at Eye Lounge from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, January 3. We recently caught up with him to discuss the Valley's drag scene.
Melissa Fossum Paul Elliott's Drag Photo Show at Eye Lounge
Eye Lounge is currently decorated from wall to wall with a series of neatly arranged black-and-white photos of drag queens. Some of the faces are instantly recognizable -- like Barbra Seville, Pandora DeStrange, and Celia Putty.
"Four queens have really helped me out with this project: Coco St. James, Barbra Seville, Pandora DeStrange, and Mia Inez Adams have all been really supportive. I've also shot, among many, Pussy LeHoot, Sizzel Lamour, Savannah Stevens, and The Legendary Jalissa Aundra Michaels," Elliott says of the exhibition.
The Tucson-born photographer has lived in the Valley for the past two years, after residing in New York and Chicago. He was initially reluctant to photograph strangers for fear of crossing a line, but quickly became comfortable in the drag community.
"A drag show was happening. I snapped a photo as the queen took a dollar from my hand," Elliott says via the show's description. "I was instantly mesmerized. I had been in town for two months, and this was the first place I felt truly comfortable. I slowly worked up the nerve to start photographing other shows, armed with a Holga, on a regular basis."
He describes Cruisin' on 7th as the first place he felt welcome in Phoenix. The popular Phoenix gay bar served as a gateway to the world of drag.
"As I started to explore the scene, I realized that there is a shit-ton of drag in this town," he says, mentioning Bunny Fu Fu and Lucinda Holiday's jaunts in Phoenix.