Lipstick Before Drag Bingo
Zoe Perry-Wood
Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Kayafas

In this project, I challenge gender identity and examine the human figure and the changing landscape of how individuals chose to, or chose not to conform to gender expectations and roles. These images represent a body of work developed from a 35-year relationship with different aspects of the LGBTQ community, including the long-standing gay and drag community in Provincetown. In my early 20’s, my best friend from childhood, a gay man, lived in Ptown. This friendship put me in the center of a swirl of gay culture. I met and hung out with a whole range of people, from drag queen performers to young men who were dying of AIDS at a time before people began living with the disease. This was all happening within the greater context of P-town’s traditional Portuguese culture and the summer influx of families visiting a popular beach resort. The tension between impending death, outrageous camp, and summer vacation was palpable.

Over the passing decades the political landscape shifted attention from HIV-AIDS to parental rights for gay people, to gay marriage, and more recently to transgender equality. Through it all I developed a deeper confidence in my vision and a sense of urgency about documenting these challenges, this place in history, and what I saw as the resulting expression of unbreakable human spirit. Ptown is a unique cultural phenomenon, which has always responded to the shifts in our cultural and societal landscape. Regardless of the growing visibility of LGBTQIA culture, the community in this small seaside town will continue to provide a safe haven for those who dwell on the outer fringe of acceptability for the human figure.

The personal impact of these political shifts influenced my photographic passions; it became much more important for me to know my subjects on a deeper level. With several decades of experience as a street photographer, I moved into a more cumbersome, albeit more intimate street/studio set up. Not wanting to separate myself from the allure of the street, I set up a new space where I move fluidly between the spontaneity of the street and the intimacy of portraiture.

The body of work that this image comes from was created over the course of nine years between 2006-2015 during Carnival Week in Provincetown, MA. My interest is not only to document the vivid culture that results from this combination of place, time and events, but also to get a glimpse of the people and their struggles, beneath the costumes and make up.