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.
From the quiet backstage, to the shimmering energies of the runway. to the electricity of the crowd, Gaskin’s photographs take us to the ball. 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. In addition to an introduction by Deborah Willis, Legendary includes an essay, The Queer Undercommons, by Frank Roberts.
Gerard H. Gaskin, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, 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 participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence Program in 2010.