acting cultural heritage drag drag performers masks and costumes performing arts Robert Sherman street performance USA



// Robert Sherman, based in New York City, is the staff photographer for the Fire Island News. One of his favourite events of the year is the annual “Invasion of the Pines”, a Pride month event. In honor of this celebratory month we are pleased to share a selection of his portraits of drag queens on their way to the celebrations.

We have previously featured Robert´s photography of flamenco dancers in Andalusia, Spain, and we are excited to be able to share an equally flamboyant set of his images.

‘Drag is not surviving harsh conditions; it is a product of harsh conditions. Drag is art about survival.’

Jono & Carlos | BARBA 

What draws you to the arts?

“The truth.”

What impresses you most about this annual Pride month event?

“In spite of the historical and current social hardships the LGBTQ community faces, there is a level of celebration of self that is unmatched in most other groups or circumstances I’ve witnessed. Not unlike the amazing beauty of the carnival and birthplace of the incredibly intoxicating Samba music in Brazil —a country rife with suffering and pain— somehow finding its way toward the purest forms of all-encompassing celebration, this Invasion event is a true and total immersion into ecstatic revelations of how beautiful each and every one of us are, as we are; unfiltered and true to ourselves. I find myself enthralled by how being so utterly convinced of one’s beauty within makes each and every participant the most exquisite presence on earth.

The “invasion” that Robert documented originated in an event in 1976, when Terry Warren, dressed in drag, was denied entry to a restaurant in Fire Island Pines, New York. This beach community on Fire Island east of New York City was at the time more conservative than the population of nearby Cherry Grove. Terry Warren was soon joined by his friends in Cherry Grove who proceeded to dress up in drag and on the US National Day of 1975, for the 4th of July celebrations, landed at the Pines with a boatload of drag queens. Exuberantly welcomed, this first “invasion” has become an annual event. The event now attracts hundreds of drag queens and thousands of spectators.

Robert was sent on assignment to photograph the “Invasion of the Pines” four years ago and fell in love with the event. He had full access with a press pass to the preparations behind the scenes (the “jamboree”) and tremendously enjoyed the energy of the pre-party scene in Cherry Grove. “Being on the Queen’s Boat en-route to The Pines for the red carpet pageant was exhilarating beyond my wildest photographic and emotional dreams. Below deck I could find quiet moments of introspection and  tender friendships, and isolation, and restrained nervousness and excitement, and raw enthusiasm for the explosive moments to come upon landing at the next town over, The Pines, and exiting down the ramp and onto the red carpet for the pageantry and the fashion gala in front of thousands of spectators, revelers, supporters and beautiful people of like minds.” 

Here we present only 10 of Robert´s photos from two different years, but we are having a double-feature today with The Pictorial-List, and you can browse more photos from the event and also read an interview with Robert there.

Images may be partly cropped for layout. Click on the photos to see the original version.

All photographs © Robert Sherman

There are many more images in this series, to see them visit the interview feature on The Pictorial-List! Also check out Robert´s Instagram page.

The quote we cited above comes from Jono & Carlos | BARBA, one of the artist couples whose work was photographed by Suzanne Phoenix and featured here in December 2020.

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