Dressing Up in Drag With the Help of Fine-Art Portraits

Art Drag Album (Nigel as Tina).

Nigel Grimmer

Nigel Grimmer’s photographs often involve some kind of social interaction. Using his friends and family as subjects, Grimmer takes them on road trips, leads them into forests, dresses them up like road kill, and puts them in a corner wearing a dunce cap.  

But for his current, ongoing series, “Art Drag Album,” Grimmer decided to put himself into the picture—sort of. To create the drag characters that are part art, part human, Grimmer uses (mostly) paintings of exotic women by J.H. Lynch and Vladimir Tretchikoff as heads and himself for the bodies. He then has friends snap the images.

As a kid, Grimmer said he would often enlist his brother to help him dress up and make photographs, usually shot with a “rubbish” camera and lighting that had a decidedly amateurish aesthetic.

“I wanted to keep that feeling,” he said about the work he has made as an adult.

Apart from the nostalgic component of his shooting style, Grimmer said a lot of what he makes is in response to what he says can be a negative view of photography. Sometimes that is represented through family portraiture where there is often pressure to conform in order to be part of the picture. 

To counter that experience, Grimmer said he is constantly trying to come up with other ways of taking photos or engaging with people, often only using one person as a subject or creating a series titled “I Could Have Done That!” where people can upload their own photos to his website.

Art Drag Album (Nigel as Miss Wong).

Nigel Grimmer

Art Drag Album (Nigel as The Chinese Girl).

Nigel Grimmer

For “Art Drag Album” he hopes to continue the project, creating images that reflect the four seasons, although he said he wants to avoid work that is too “precious.”

“They are still snapshots,” he said about his work. “It’s all quite low tech, I want photos that anyone can do.”

Art Drag Album (Nigel as Nina).

Nigel Grimmer

Art Drag Album (Nigel as General Idea’s Nazi Milk).

Nigel Grimmer