If commerce reigns New York City during the day, the throb of creativity owns the night. These images depict its audacious, brazen heart.
In March of 2014, a friend gave me a heads-up about a party she thought I’d enjoy. For four years I’d been working as a portrait photographer in Brooklyn, focusing on the millennial art community, but when I walked in the room, I knew I’d found the edge of a blade. Who were these glittering performers, these late-night habitués? Would they let me into their world? I was intrigued, enamored. I had to know more.
That event began my two-year exploration of the city’s raucous, fevered nightlife. From Brooklyn to Manhattan, I saw club kids in phosphorescent, outrageous costumes, drag queens in their sequined, fish-netted extravagance, and fire-breathers, burlesque dancers, can-can girls, aerialists – all in a rollicking parade of gender ambiguity and fantasy.
I shot all the photographs on 35mm film, either with disposable cameras or a small Ricoh GR1v, never looking through the viewfinder, relying on my intuition for what was relevant. This allowed me to be innocuous and discreet – and at the same time present and interactive. The zone that had ordinarily separated me from my subjects blurred and then disintegrated. The process became the product.
The body of work encompasses an eclectic range of individual artists and overlapping subcultures, and through it runs a vein of courage, defiance, and tenacity. It has now grown to more than 150 images (and counting) and has taken on a life of its own.
-Elizabeth Waterman 2016
All images copyright Elizabeth Waterman. Print and licensing please inquire.