Keiko Hiromi

I had the pleasure of meeting Keiko Hiromi in Boston at the Flash Forward Festival, and was intrigued by her series of drag queens.  Keiko is from Tokyo, but has called Boston home for a number of years.  She received a B.A. from Suffolk University and graduated from New
England School of Photography in 2005. Much of her work looks at artifice and heightened entertainment, from the dance floor, to the stage, and even to the pulpit.
Her work has been exhibited
nationally and internationally has received recognitions and awards,
including The Griffin Museum Emerging Photographer Award, Project Basho
Emerging Artist Award and “Best in Show” in The Photo Review. Keiko’s photographs are  in numerous private collections and have been favorably
reviewed by Kotaro Iizawa, one of Japan’s most prominent photography
critics. She was a finalist for the Pollux Award 2010, a Julia Margaret
Cameron Award portfolio finalist, and will be exhibiting work at the
2012 Les Rencontres d’Arles in France.  Her work is available through the Panopticon Gallery.

Keiko has been documenting the drag culture in Boston for a number of years.  I am featuring her color work and her series, Jacques Cabaret 2007, Drag Queens 2011 & Jacques in Color.

Jacques Cabaret is one of the oldest drag
queen venues in Boston, MA. I first went to Jacques Cabaret as a
customer with a friend in 2007.  During my first experience at a full
drag show, I recall having to sit uncomfortably with vodka in a plastic
cup at table, surrounded by obnoxious bachelorette parties and really
“tall women”. I felt completely out of place.  As soon as the show
commenced, the performers and their stage presence blew me away. I
became aware of their raw and uncut power.  There was no more
discomfort. Since that time I’ve had to return again and again to
document them.

I worked on Jacques Cabaret 2007 for three months.  During my shooting time, I was often referred to as a Ninja photographer.  I was afforded the opportunity to get to know the queens and people at Jacques Cabaret, not just as subjects but also as individuals. On my first day approaching these entertainers in 2007, I asked them if I could photograph them. Mizery looked me over from the top of my head to my shoes from her dressing room and said “sure, rule with me is no photos while I am changing down there” and winked.

Since then I have garnered that each had a story and history. I feel grateful to have shared in the intimate details of their lives, through photography and intrapersonal relationships.

Jojo, the cross dressing waiter was getting married to a long term girlfriend: Destiny, one of the drag performers, always took very little to get ready for the show, compared to others due to having had sex change operation.  Miss. Kris worked as a large size man’s cloth store as a day job.  When meeting Dahlia Black’s ex girl friend (remain her best friend after coming out), she smiled and said, “ if I was a straight boy, we would probably have been married with a couple kids by now.”

I returned to photograph “Drag Queen 2011” at Jacques Cabaret last March right after the disaster in Japan. I changed my stance as a photographer. Rather than seek to minimalize my own presence as in the past (like a “fly on the wall”), I consciously acknowledged it this time. In 2006 I was afraid of everything. I feared that by being there it would have change the group dynamics of the environment and I would have ruined my “documentary photographs”. I realize now that “I” have to be there to make a picture.  My involvement with these individuals allows an entirely new perspective. I look for color, contrast, shapes, and enjoy putting my Jacques’s experiences into photographs.