Light Work is pleased to present Gerard H. Gaskin: Legendary: Inside the House Ballroom Scene in the Robert B. Menschel Photography Gallery in the Shine Student Center at Syracuse University. A lecture sponsored by Syracuse University’s Pride Union will be held on Wednesday, February 12 from 7-10pm in Schine ABC. The talk is free and open to students and community members. The exhibition is open daily from 10am–10pm.
Gerard H. Gaskin’s radiant color and black-and-white photographs take us inside the culture of house balls, underground events where gay and transgender men and women, mostly African American and Latino, come together to see and be seen. At balls, high-spirited late-night pageants, members of particular “houses”—the House of Blahnik, the House of Xtravaganza—”walk,” competing for trophies in categories based on costume, attitude, dance moves, and “realness.” In this exuberant world of artistry and self-fashioning, people often marginalized for being who they are can flaunt and celebrate their most vibrant, spectacular selves.
Legendary, comprised of photos taken at events in the New York city area, Philadelphia, Richmond, and Washington, D.C., is a collaboration between Gaskin, a camera-laden outsider who has been attending balls for twenty years, and the house members who let him enter the intimate world of ball culture.
“The balls are a celebration of black and Latino urban gay life. They were born in Harlem out of a need for black and Latino gays to have a safe space to express themselves. Balls are constructed like beauty and talent pageants. The participants work to redefine and critique gender and sexual identity through an extravagant fashion masquerade. Women and men become fluid, interchangeable points of departure and reference, disrupting the notion of a fixed and rigid gender and sexual self. My images try to show a more personal and intimate beauty, pride, dignity, courage, and grace that have been painfully challenged by mainstream society. All of this happens at night in small halls in cities all over the country. These photographs, taken in New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, and Washington, D.C., show us different views of these spaces as they are reflected in the eyes of house and ball members who perform what they wish these cities could be.”
— Gerard H. Gaskin
Gerard H. Gaskin, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, now based in Syracuse, NY, earned a B.A. from Hunter College in 1994 and is now a freelance photographer based in the greater New York City area. His photos have appeared in the New York Times, Newsday, Black Enterprise, OneWorld, Teen People, Caribbean Beat, and DownBeat. Among his other clients are the record companies Island, Sony, Def Jam, and Mercury. Gaskin’s photographs have been featured in solo and group exhibitions across the United States and abroad, and his work is held in the collections of such institutions as the Museum of the City of New York and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Gaskin has been awarded The New York Foundation for the Arts Artist Fellowship for Photography and was part of the Gordon Parks’ 90, the bringing together of 90 black photographers from all over the United States to celebrate his 90th birthday. His work is also featured in the books Inside the L.A. Riots (1992), New York: A State of Mind (2000), and Committed To The Image: Contemporary Black Photographers (2001).