In my practice of all kinds of photography, problems arise that you don’t always expect. I’m used to humidity issues with antique and historic processes like gum bichromate and platinum. Of course, any light-sensitive material has to be treated with respect or you’ll ruin it. But digital photography was billed as a sort of end-all solution to everything that plagued wet darkroom photography. You just insert the paper in the printer, hit ‘print’ and a couple minutes later, out comes your perfect print, all in room light, no odor, no chemistry, no fuss.
Well… it turns out humidity (something unavoidable in Washington DC for 2/3 of the year) which is a big plus for antique and historic processes and a non-issue for silver-gelatin and RA-4 wet color printing, is a major enemy for inkjet printing. I had a box of Brilliant Museum SilverGloss White paper which I had been using to print my big exhibition prints. It turns out that over time, the paper had swollen from what I can only assume was moisture absorption and would not go through my printer without head strikes and smeared ink in the corners of the prints. I was trying to finish up a print job for a sale I made of four prints, and I ruined the remaining sheets of Brilliant I had. I was in a bad jam because Brilliant was Calumet’s house brand, and Calumet is no longer a serious player in the US (two remaining stores in Chicago, and an absolutely worthless single-page web page saying “call us for what you want!”). Ordering from Calumet UK, who does carry it, is a really bad idea as the shipping cost would probably equal the cost of a box of paper, AND in the UK and the rest of Europe, their paper sizes are all based on the A notation instead of inches.
I loved the paper, but it is effectively no longer available here. So off to B&H Photo I went (virtually) and found the new Harman by Hahnemuhle Gloss Art Fibre paper. It’s virtually identical in weight (a gorgeous 300gsm heavy-weight fiber paper) and paper brightness. Another upside- a 30 sheet box is cheaper than a 25 sheet box of Brilliant! After having made two prints on it this morning, I can rest happy that I can keep printing my existing series of prints with it without any loss of quality. I’m also glad I can support a major player in the analog market (Ilford/Harman) with my digital purchases.
This “best of” is not intended to be a judgement on the participants, but rather a personal assessment of my favorite photos from the event. In no particular order:
The last of the High Heel Race images from this year. Attending is fun, especially to see all the creativity that gets put into the outfits, most especially from the teams who invent a group theme costume. I swear there are some that start planning next years costume the day after this year’s race, like the fast food themed group or the Washington monuments group of a couple years ago.
One of the most enjoyable parts of attending is the joie-de-vivre of the participants AND the attendees. These women were having a grand old time on the patio at Fox and Hounds. They also actively solicited me taking their photo.
This lady also wanted her photo taken, and was directing me to take the picture of the drag queen in the photo above: “ooh, did you get her? You have to get her! She’s beautiful!”. Her boyfriend/husband was actually not so thrilled with the idea of being photographed, but when he heard it was not going to be in the newspaper, he relented. You can tell, though, from his expression here it was very much HER idea :) .
One thing that is getting very frustrating about photographing the race, though, is the organizers. I realize they have a tough job to do, to keep a very large, and by the time the race kicks off, very drunk crowd under control. But for those of us not blessed with traditional media connections to obtain a press pass and for whom one of the primary reasons for attending is photography, they’re becoming killjoys. The organizers seem to be losing sight of the fact that this is a fun, free-spirited, countercultural event and that being control nazis and bullying photographers is just really uncool. You want good press, let us do our thing and we’ll reward you with great photos and great write-ups about the event. Keep stepping on us and we’ll stop coming, stop taking pictures, and stop showing the world what kind of fun event this is. .
Again, not so many words needed.
Now that is some FIERCE hair!
She reminds me a bit of Divine post-Atkins diet. More than enough polyester pantsuit to go ’round.
The devil/angel made me do it!
Would you call this “masculine glamour”?
Overheard: “We have an ‘unconventional’ relationship…”
These guys actually asked me to take their photo!
The less genetically graced cousins of Rocky Horror and Frank N. Furter:
While the race seems to largely be a young man’s (or is it woman’s?) sport, it’s nice to see some gentlemen of a certain age participating, proof that it’s all in the attitude.
The complete MMRF crew posing in a line, showing off their “assets”.
Sometimes it’s not about the drag… sometimes it’s just a cute guy. With a drink in hand.
It’s FLO! Can I get a discount double-check?
Church ladies on power scooters!
The Fanta girls made a comeback this year. Here two of them are mock fighting over their flavors. (see my pic of them in 2012 here)
The higher the hair, the closer to… oh my god.
Don’t forget that safe sex can be fun… if you tear the dress getting it off, it’s ready to do double-duty!
Now that I’m in to the thick of posting the HHR photos, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves for the most part, and just indulge in a little occasional snark about the subjects as the spirit moves me. Ergo:
Doesn’t the guy on the right look kind of like a young Val Kilmer in drag? Back when Val Kilmer didn’t look like a liver sausage.
I think you could caption this one, “rescue me”!
I think someone was interpreting the giant christmas tree/butt-plug on display in Paris.
American Horror Story: Freak Show hits the streets.
To indulge in a little more technical info about the photography itself, I’m using a Gary Fong flash modifier which looks a lot like a frosted tupperware container whose lid is suffering from mid-life belly sag. Regardless of the appearance, it’s truly the best flash diffuser I’ve tried. It does a fantastic job of softening cast shadows from the flash and spreading the light more evenly, which is a huge plus when shooting in an environment like the HHR – outdoors, at night, under street lamps.
Miss Bette Davis, in da house! This is my friend Rit Lon, channeling Baby Jane Hudson, perhaps Ms. Davis’ most infamous role.
Church Ladies at the Races!
This poor little tourist lady I don’t think quite realized what she was getting herself into when she asked to have her picture taken with a drag queen.
There are actually a lot of straight men who participate in the High Heel Race. Here’s one who is obviously a first-timer in heels, resting his feet before the big event. He was part of a group of friends participating to raise awareness for a friend of theirs who was competing in an ironman/ironwoman contest to raise money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
Who knew Angry Birds did drag and drank their liquor through a straw?