6sqft’s ongoing series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, Ira Fox takes us back in time to the East Village of the ’90s. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
Ira Fox is best known for his use of black-and-white photography and cinematic approach, credited to his background in theater. He focuses on urban New York scenes and portraits, one example of which is his series “Wigstock at the Palladium.” Wigstock was the annual Labor Day drag music festival in the East Village that was co-founded by Lady Bunny and hosted the likes of Crystal Waters, RuPaul, and Leigh Bowery in the ’80s and ’90s. In his shots, which were taken outside the famed Palladium nightclub, Ira captures the diverse characters who partook in the jubilant event during the ’90s.
How long have you been a New Yorker?
I was born in The Bronx and have lived in New York City all my life, 59 years.
Tell us about the series you chose.
I chose “The Wigstock” series because the photos have a definite stamp of New York City, in character and style symbolized by the mid to late ‘90s. I spotted some drag queens either coming or going to an event at the Palladium, which was located around Irving and 14th Street. I engaged them and they posed for me. One of them gave me the finger. But, I was thrilled at the reactions I got from my subjects…very honest and realistic portraits of guys dressed up with lots of attitude. I especially loved the curlers!
How do you feel the East Village has changed from the ’90s to now?
I think the East Village has been modernized and commercialized for tourists, education and commerce. The Palladium was a grand old theater that hosted many Wigstock events, but has now been turned into a New York University dormitory. There’s a PC Richards store there now as well, and I think the only thing that remains might be the old phone booth in front.
What types of subjects tend to catch your eye?
I am attracted to subjects who have a certain self-confidence, strength and individual identity that is all their own. I’m fascinated with strong characters who aren’t afraid of being themselves. I find myself reacting to their inner life, and I’m moved to preserve it.
What else are you working on right now?
I’m working on a new series of color street portraits, which I hope will turn into a gallery show. I’m shooting people on the fringe; scrappy down and out New Yorkers and struggling downtown denizens on the streets of Soho and Tribeca.
Winston West Fine Art is offering 50 percent off all Ira Fox’s 8″ x 10″ prints (enter the promo code 6SQFT at checkout) and free framing for the first 20 buyers. View the collection here >>
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All images © Ira Fox
Neighborhoods : East Village