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  • Katelin Kinney

Desert Drag

A project that was meant to be one day with 5 drag artists turned into a twice monthly shoot that lasted most of 2022, my last year in the desert.

It was February of 2022 and I was brainstorming of new personal projects I'd like to take on. I knew I wanted to shoot with people again as I'd been shooting mostly products and still life for a couple years. I wanted there to be exotic or detailed hair and makeup and styling. That was the extent I had decided upon when I was scrolling through Facebook one day and saw someone post about a local drag show in Tucson. That was Miss Nature posting about her shows Nature At Night. I was surprised that there was such a vibrant and large drag community in a city as small as Tucson.

I reached out to Miss Nature asking if she and any other drag artists would be interested in shooting out in our beautiful desert. I explained my concept was to show a beautiful queen in a beautiful landscape and to also speak to the fact that the art of drag has reached so far and wide that it's even in our Sonoran Desert. She was immediately on board and we booked a shoot date.

As the photos circulated, more and more drag artists wanted to be included in this project. So, I began shooting every first and third Sunday of each month. I shot in sand dunes, amongst saguaros, up on mountain cliff edges, in 110 degree weather, and every single time these artists showed up in full attire ready to serve attitude and looks.

The diversity of looks and personal backgrounds these artists brought to our shoots was one of my favorite parts of this project. One shoot that always stands out to me is Rita DeMornay bringing awareness to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Our artists came from many different ethnic backgrounds and gender identities. Some were quiet and calm in front of the camera. Others were bold and energetic. Each one was clearly an artist and a professional. The level of talent Miss Nature brought to her shows was truly impressive.

I kept the lighting set-up the same with each shoot. We shot at 1pm in the desert sun. To overpower that harsh afternoon light I had a 4 light set-up. There was a boom key light, a soft box fill in front, and two side lights with red gels to separate the skin tone from the cyan sky.

The landscape was as equally important to me as the drag artists themselves. I wanted to showcase the various plants and mountains. The angles were all very wide and low to make the viewer really feel like they were sitting in the landscape with us, walking amongst the cactuses.

Overall this project has really colored my time here in Tucson- so many memories and crazy shoot conditions. I've loved getting out and location scouting in this gorgeous land. Getting to shoot such talented artists in all their glory and sparkles and power was the perfect way to spend my last year in the desert. Forever grateful to everyone who participated in this project, and especially for Miss Nature who was as enthusiastic about Desert Drag as I was and who coordinated all the talent for each shoot. Desert Drag 2022 is complete!


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