Survive, Glamorous: Images of Drag in the District
"Decadence" by Farrah Skeiky, 2019, on display at Survive, Glamorous: Images of Drag in the District

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Survive, Glamorously: Images of Drag in the District, a timely and eye-opening new photography exhibit running through May 13, showcases D.C.’s underrated drag artists through the lenses of queer photographers working across the city. 

The exhibit, featuring 20 selected photos, is co-curated by haus of Bambi, a local queer arts producer, and photographer Farrah Skeiky, who has captured everything from D.C.’s punk scene to its eclectic food (and, full disclosure, contributes to City Paper). Located in the artistically industrial Studio B at Ron David Studio in Union Market, this collaborative show features photography by local artists Cassidy DuHon, Keylimehi, Koto Langa, and Skeiky

The selected photos in Survive, Glamorously, taken between 2018 and 2023, depict the beauty, strength, diversity, and unparalleled performance of D.C.’s drag scene while also demonstrating the breadth of artistic perspectives and point of views of each photographer. Despite overlap between the performers and queer events that each of these photographers capture (such as esteemed performer Pussy Noir and longtime queer party Sleaze), each body of work is distinct from one another in terms of color, composition, and perspective. They come together beautifully in the exhibition space. 

DuHon’s photos show drag performers in literal nature, standing alongside trees, laying in grass, while Keylimehi uses bright colors strategically and playfully to bring life to dark spaces. Langa’s film photos capture drag performers in action such as a queen’s face lit up in a smile and hair flying mid-move. Skeiky focuses on the dynamics of performers on stage, showing queens overlooking fawning crowds of beautiful Washingtonians. The resulting collection is a stunning depiction of the simultaneous contraction and expansion in D.C.’s queer spaces; everyone seemingly knows each other and yet new people, events, and spaces are constantly emerging. 

The exhibit was purposefully scheduled to take place before Pride Month kicks off in June to remind patrons that queer people live and create art in the District all year long. While the city can often come off as buttoned-up, Keylimehi asserted at the exhibit’s media preview on May 2 that “there’s a harness under that buttoned-up shirt.” The exhibit’s selected photographs unbutton that stuffy, tired, and inaccurate image of D.C. to show the thriving queer nightlife and drag scene happening below the surface. 

In a time when legislatures are attempting to ban drag performance across the country at an alarming rate, Survive, Glamorously: Images of Drag in the District is a radical and necessary reminder that queer people still have artistic expression, spaces, and communities to hold on to and organize within in D.C.

In this spirit of connecting and supporting D.C.’s queer community through art, Survive, Glamorously’s organizers are hosting two events to anchor the exhibition and help connect patrons to its featured photographers and drag artists. A May 9 event will feature performances by local drag king King Molasses and others, as well as an artists talk between drag artists and photographers, and a social hour for mingling. The exhibit closes May 13 with a queer tea party and portraits of event attendees taken by Airin Yung Chen of @queerportraitsfromthepark

Survive, Glamorously: Images of Drag in the District is on display through May 13 at Studio B at Ron David Studio in Union Market. Free.