“What is Real”

“What is Real” (2013) Photography

This project was inspired by the iconic documentary Paris is Burning which explores the lives of drag queens in 90s New York and it serves the same purpose: to celebrate people that don’t belong to society’s idea of the norm.
It is harder for people who feel comfortable in a binary gender system to understand that there are people whose assigned sex and gender identity is different from the one that really satisfies their wants and needs.


Gender-queer is a term used to describe people that cannot identify with the terms ‘man/woman’; but find their selves somewhere else on the spectrum. People with queer identities have been and continue to be subjected to critique and prejudice about their lives and it is not until quite recently that the rest of the world has started to become educated around sex and gender identities. Because of that lack of awareness, many people of the Gender-queer community cover their identities to fit societal norm and to avoid being given offensive labels.


But there are places that they can be Real. Places where they are celebrated when they are themselves. One of these places was for many years Madame Jojo’s, the infamous club in Soho, central London.  Madame Jojo’s was, for more than half a century and until very recently, home to some of London’s most diverse nightlife. It understood how fluid reality and normality are and celebrated the ability to be unique and oneself because therein lie authenticity and beauty.


This iconic place of burlesque nights and queer cabaret shows shut down for good in 2014 after a violent dispute between the bouncers and a customer. Supporters of Madame Jojo’s claim, however, that the closure is part of the council’s drive to gentrify Soho.


No matter the reason the point is that Madame Jojo’s no longer stands. So this project which was shot in its last active year is dedicated both to the people in it and the place itself. Hopefully, it will never be forgotten.


Note: All photographs are taken from the spectator’s point of view, to show more authentically the experience the visitor of the club would have.

Article by Raisa Desypri

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