Author(s): Gerard H. Gaskin
Gerard H. Gaskin's radiant colour 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 balls events in New York, Philadelphia, 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 by Frank Roberts, "The Hidden Histories of House Ball Culture."
"I've always photographed with the same method. I need to be close to people. I want to be there long enough that they just assume I'm taking pictures, then they let their guard down and become more natural. I almost have a way of being invisible, but part of being invisible is being close. The closer I am, in some ways, the more invisible I become. [...] I want to celebrate the fact that this is a space that the community created, where they can deal with ideas that pertain to their lives without the judgment of the outside world. And who's judging now? Participants are judging themselves. And that's the fundamental reason I wanted to, with these photographs, comprise a book. Here's a place that they created where they can play with sexuality and play with any role they want and be judged by their peers, not some outside entity." - Gaskin, interviewed in Mosaic Magazine "Tens across the board! Photographer Gerard H. Gaskin new book Legendary provides a vivid pictorial examination of contemporary ball culture." - Lambda Literary Review "Gaskin has realized every documentarian's dream: to be wholly welcomed into a community - here, one that celebrates the self, however many selves there may be. Gaskin's search for beauty brings us "Legendary," navigating through the electrifying house ballroom scene and its most thrilling and exquisite moments, people and spaces."--Duke Chronicle, November 14th 2013 "Legendary: Inside the House Ball Scene is a vivid and beautiful look at a subculture we usually only get to see when a mainstream entertainer co-opts it." - WFPL.org "The culmination of 20-plus years of photography, Legendary is a wonderful look into the house ballroom scene, a culture that has been often been appropriated but rarely acknowledged. Each image captures the beauty and pride of the scene's participants, standing as testimony to the importance of the scene, its endurance and vitality." - Slate.com "A lovingly devised coffee table book, winner of a now well established photography prize, Legendary, welcomes you into a fabulous world. This hall of mirrors is akin to the dazzling Emerald City of 'some where over the rainbow' fame." - Kay Bourne, Edge "[A] startling, poignant, and unflinching look at the life of performance that links together queer and transsexual, gay and lesbian, same-gender-loving people of color... Gaskin has created an indelible document and provided a crucial service to the lives of men, women, and all of us who live in-between these categories, as he shows us back to ourselves as we are in these balls: proud, confident, exuberant, in anticipation, glamorous, thrilling, and hopeful." - Thomas F. DeFrantz, Edge on the Net, 2014
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.