Step into the fantastical celebrity world of snap-happy photographer Jeremy Kost, where life is exclusive, full of fame, drag queens and beautiful boys.
Click images to enlarge.
Never one to capture a dull moment, with the flash of his camera, Kost turns his subjects into the superstars they always dreamed of being. This May, luxury fashion house Hugo Boss have partnered up with The Andy Warhol Museum to present ‘Of An Instance’, an exhibition of Kost’s recent works. With a common theme of façade running throughout, the show offers an overview of Kost’s vibrant work to date, set in close dialogue with a selection of iconic large format Polaroids from The Andy Warhol Museum’s collection. Each of Warhol’s pieces have been carefully considered and selected by Kost in order to enhance the intimate relationship between the work and his own. Director of the museum Eric Shiner commented: “Kost, like Warhol before him, is deeply intrigued by the hidden beauty of the world around him. Whether in an underground club, behind closed doors, or under the veneer of heavy makeup, Kost’s party people, beautiful boys and outrageous drag queens all pay homage to Warhol’s subjects of decades past.”
i-D online caught up with Kost to find out about drag culture, instant pictures and pretty boys.
Can you tell us a little about the exhibition and what it will consist of? The show is called Of An Instance and will explore three bodies of my work: celebrity, nightlife personas and boys, all in the context of Andy Warhol’s Polaroids from the museum collection. I’ll be showing silkscreen paintings, a video, some collages that people have come to know, and some new single Polaroid “multi exposures”. The bodies of work, while one might think they are fairly disparate, are all connected through a common idea of façade – the public face that we put on to be noticed, to be celebrated, and to be worshipped.
How do your silkscreen paintings work in conjunction with your Polaroid compositions? The paintings are all made from my Polaroid photographs (similar to Andy’s process of making portraits… he would shoot Polaroids and then make the paintings from them). It’s less a departure from the medium and more an exploration of a different set of ideas.
Has fashion always played a key role in your photographic narrative? I honestly don’t think about it at all. I certainly don’t think of myself as a fashion photographer. When I make my work with boys, I really try to avoid anything that is “too fashion”. I like them to feel that it’s a somewhat realistic fantasy and that what they are wearing or not wearing, isn’t such a stretch for the imagination. On the other hand, when it comes to drag queens, I think they’re looking at fashion for inspiration all the time and frankly, I often think of women’s fashion as “drag for women” anyway.
How does it feel to be showing alongside legendary works by Andy Warhol? Have you always been a big admirer? I can’t tell you how much it means that the museum allowed me to be put in the same arena. I think every contemporary artist HAS to be an admirer. He’s touched on everything you could possibly imagine and we can all only hope to advance the discourse in some way. I tried to find relationships between my work and Andy’s Polaroids whether they be generational, gestural, compositional etc. Beyoncé alongside Diana Ross, Anna Wintour alongside Diana Vreeland, a still life of a pig alongside a drag queen in a pig costume.
Do you have a favourite piece? Hmmmmmmm. A favourite piece… I do love the self-portraits of Andy with the skull!
What major changes have there been within the drag queen community since you started? Do you feel that what was once a vibrant subculture is now recognized as something much more commercial? I think the biggest difference is that it’s become much more about Facebook. While I believe the characters that I work with still do it for a love of performance art, I think a lot of it has become about how many pictures will be on Facebook the next morning! That said, I couldn’t be happier for one of my muses, Sharon Needles, who’s seeing tremendous success after having been on RuPaul’s DragRace. I’ve been shooting her since 2009 and she was on the cover of my first book It’s Always Darkest Before Dawn. I’m totally ok with “sharing” my muses with the world. Now everyone gets to see how truly amazing she is.
Jeremy Kost, Of an Instance, in partnership with The Andy Warhol Museum runs until 31st May, 2012 at 150 11th Avenue, New York.
Text: Michael Stephens
Images from top: A Nude Never Hurt Anyone, 2012 / Self-Portait on my 34th Birthday, 2012 / Elegance is Refusal, 2012 / Little House in Shadyside (Sharon), 2010 / Games on, 2012 / Kate the Great (Polarizing at 40), 2012.