Straight Men Love Drag

16" x 20"
Straight Men Love Drag
Straight Men Love Drag
Carley Milberg

Carley Milberg


When I was young, most of the authority figures in my life shamed me for qualities out of my control. They would paint me as someone who was too loud, opinionated, messy, selfish, and a brat. These are the words that I became obsessed with for most of my life and viewed them as my flaws, reasons why no one would want to be around me. These words haunted me for most of my life, and I am still learning to disassociate myself from them.

Even in today’s world where we as a human race seem to be moving towards change and acceptance, we still struggle with labeling qualities in ourselves and others that make us different as a bad thing. This idea is what attracted me to photographing drag shows and the performers who participate in them. Anytime a performer goes up and performs on the stage, they take a chance of the viewers in the crowd forming negative opinions about them. Some, if not most, of these performers, have loved ones who have not supported their journey in this way. Instead of giving in to that narrative, or letting fear paralyze them, they get up in front of strangers and do what they love to do and show the world a version of who they are.

My approach photography style for this project is more documentary. There is no real set plan when I go to take these photographs, I tend to just find the place and time the drags shows would be, and I go in with my camera and flash and I wait. The performers move fast so this required me to be fast with the decision making and constantly moving around. My camera becomes my power source for me to be unapologetic in my movements and my blinding flash. I wanted to capture moments where the crowd was normally invested in the show and not really to anything else. My purpose was not to show things in a perfect light but as is. I chose black and white for the sense of dramatic value, but also to help with technical difficulties. Being able to photograph in a night club with fog is not as easy as it may seem.

In the crowd, you will see a handful of different personas that come to watch the shows, and it forms a sense of a community. We all have flaws that have been looked at as undesirable, and there is this tiny moment during the show where they all connect and we are all misfits coming together to see our faults as something normal and part of being a human.

When you view my work, I hope you do not see these flashy outfits and exaggerated makeup as flaws, but you simply see beautiful humans truly expressing who they are in a loud way. May we all one day be so brave.