HKFP Lens LGBTQ & Gender

HKFP Lens: The dramatic world of Hong Kong’s drag queens – portraits by Laura Simonsen

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.”

Laura Simonsen drag queen

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

Simonsen got to know members of the community as part of her Gender Identity photography project, for which she has held several exhibitions.

Laura Simonsen drag queen

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

“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.”

Laura Simonsen drag queen

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

“I love their transformation from man to dramatic theatrical queen. They become so expressive.”

Laura Simonsen drag queen

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

“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.”

Laura Simonsen drag queen

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

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.

Laura Simonsen drag queen

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

“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.”

Laura Simonsen drag queen

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

“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.”

Laura Simonsen drag queen

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

Laura Simonsen drag queen

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

Laura Simonsen drag queen

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

Follow Simonsen’s work on her website and Instagram.

HKFP Lens: The dramatic world of Hong Kong's drag queens - portraits by Laura Simonsen