Leland Bobbé is a New York photographer who has found himself at the center of attention in the Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Bisexual (LGBT) community. His amazing Half Drag photos are split down the middle with one side showing a man without makeup and sometimes even with a beard. The other side shows the same man in full drag including makeup, hair, and jewelry, taking viewers instantly into the juxtaposition.
We wanted to know more about how the photos came about. Were they just photo-shopped or were two different photos pieced together? No, says Bobbé, “they were all done with one shot,” which means that the makeup is done that precisely.
Perhaps no one is more surprised at the popularity of Half Drag series than Bobbé himself. “I never expected this to go viral in the way it has. It has taken off beyond my expectations,” although they were meant to provide a provocative social commentary on gender identity, normative ideas about gender roles, and the traditional male/ female paradigm.
The importance of his work reaches beyond the LGBT community — it has had an impact on many people’s understanding of sexual orientation and gender expression. Straight men and women are caught by surprise at the work. The transition from drag to man is severe, yet beautiful. It apparently makes people question their own concept of gender, sparking an international conversation on the subject.
His portrait series of burlesque artists had a showing at New York’s Museum of Sex. These photos are more than just portraits, they strip away the glitz and glamour of the stage — leaving only the true human condition. Portraits such as Madame Renee Rosewood put a face to popular fantasies such as S&M. “I shot these portraits from 2009 – 2011, as classic portraits so they would look very real and honest, not posed and glitzy like most of the burlesque performer portraits I’ve seen,” said Bobbé.
When asked where he finds the amazing people who are the subjects of his work, he said, “Sometimes I find people on the streets, in stores, Facebook, anywhere I see someone that looks interesting. For my Half-Drag project I found most of my subjects through Facebook.” He finds inspiration in classic music and movies and lists the Beatles, Pretenders, Ramones and The Godfather movies as his favorites. “I like them all for different reasons but they all contribute to my attitude and state of mind.” If he could photograph anyone, dead or alive, it would be John Lennon.
So what is his next project? “I m working on a project called New York City Wall Art. These shots are of New York city walls with layers of peeled posters that when isolated become very interesting to look at.”