Photo: Max Mauro
Max Mauro has been taking photos for nearly a decade, focusing on his queer family and community of fellow drag performers. He studied photography at SUNY Purchase, where he first began doing drag. Since moving to NYC he has continued both pursuits, performing as at LGBTQ+ clubs in Brooklyn and Queens.
We asked Mauro to document his personal experience during the 2019 WorldPride celebration, and he chose to focus on the community he has found through drag performances. Mauro shot two shows on Pride Sunday: one very early that morning at in Bushwick, at which he appeared on stage, and one that night at in Astoria.
For the last few years, I’ve been making portraits of people that I identify with in the sense that they are queer misfits. Family has always been a really big part of my work—not necessarily a traditional nuclear family but more of a queer,
Paris Is Burning
–style chosen family. It’s exciting to find that familial intimacy and community with people you don’t share blood with.
What makes it slightly unique is that, since I’m also a drag artist, I have a foot in that world. A lot of times when people shoot that kind of subject matter, it’s as a spectator. I try to dive in and question how my being a member of this community comes out in the photographs.
Yeah—I brought my camera with me to my own show at Gold Sounds, and I was photographing before and during the show.
That’s definitely what I wanted my focus to be. The assignment was to photograph Pride; for me, my pride is in my community and the family you forge as a queer person. I consider my drag sisters and nightlife friends to be part of my queer family.
Yeah, it was wild. Our crowd [at Gold Sounds] was much bigger than usual. There’s a different kind of excitement on a weekend like that. It had its own challenges when it came to photographing, but it also came with some really cool opportunities.
Both places were pretty packed. Luckily I had the luxury to be able to push forward and get a better perspective at my show. You had to accept it and let that sort of busy environment be part of the backdrop.
That was our “raffle girl,” as we call them. I’ve always been attracted to the people working these drag shows who aren’t the actual performers. On one of the breaks, I wanted to catch her outside the bar. I didn’t even have to tell her to pose. I love the color blocking of the green eye with the orange tickets. It just worked out so great.
What I really wanted to focus on is that drag is punk. It’s super punk. Drag is very nonconforming to heteronormative rules, at least at heart. These descriptors can be applied to queer people as well. Pride is so much more about liberation and things holding us down and kind of rebelling against that in a cool way.
I think a lot about that transformation. I’m always most interested in what’s behind that curtain. When you catch those in-between moments—or even those looks that aren’t finished—there’s a bigger window for vulnerability.
There’s one with a friend of mine in drag who is bearded and has these vibrant red earrings with this bright green sheer bow. I like it for the sense of color blocking, but it also feels really punk to me—super genderqueer and fluid and rambunctious. There’s another of one of the girls, gluing the lace down on her wig at the bar. It’s a shallow depth of field, and she’s looking into a small compact. It’s a behind-the-scenes vibe.