Hong Kong photographer Laura Simonsen has been taking portraits of the city’s drag queens, who – in a conservative city like Hong Kong, she calls “incredibly brave.”
Simonsen got to know members of the community as part of her Gender Identity photography project, for which she has held several exhibitions.
“Since living in Sydney 11 years ago, I have been fascinated by drag queens and their world,” she told HKFP. “There’s quite a big scene there.”
“I love their transformation from man to dramatic theatrical queen. They become so expressive.”
“I became interested in when the change in them happens, so I followed three known drag queens here in Hong Kong through their make-up process, and noted that it’s when those big eyelashes go on that their personality changes.”
In one resulting exhibition – Another Side of Me (2015) – Simonsen portrayed drag queen Simon’s transformation to becoming Cleo. She chose to set the portraits in “gritty, edgy, real environments” rather than studios.
“I wanted this to be shown because not only was the transformation so dramatic, and visually amazing, but I wanted people to be aware that sometimes people have two sides to them and that is okay.”
“It takes a lot of confidence to become a drag queen, especially in [Hong Kong], and through my photography I wanted to celebrate their integral part of being entertainers in any LGBT community.”