Blake Morrow is celebrating the art of drag with his new photographic project “Love Yourself” that showcases the 2 sides of drag by putting the performers face-to-face with their drag personas. This project has been met with high appreciation and admiration from the art world and from drag fans all over the world. Blake wanted through this project to create something that is entertaining, inspirational and educational, so that people would look at the imagery of the performers and see the humanity in them, while getting familiar with the art of drag at the same time.
For those who do not know Blake it is high time you learned him, as he proves to be a genius and creative visionary whose popularity is increasing day by day! Let’s get to know him more.
Who is Blake Morrow?
I’d like to say I am a mysterious, sexy and irresistible man, but the truth is, I’m more of a dork then I’d like to admit.
How would you describe your work?
I’d say that I love making imagery that tells a story. I feel like I’ve achieved something if I’ve made an eye-catching photograph that can both entertain and speak truth into our society.
Where did your passion for photography stem from?
I grew up loving to draw, and I’ve always had a huge imagination. Saturday morning cartoons, superheroes, great stories… I discovered photography in grade school and loved capturing moments and that developed into telling stories with images.
Are you a fan of the drag scene and drag shows? What is the role of drag in your life?
I love drag and drag shows, and the escape from the world the art form can provide. Sometimes you just need to have fun at a club singing out your favourite songs. RuPaul has created so much more understanding for the LGBTQ community by sharing so many amazing entertainers with the world.
What is it that you enjoy most in your work?
I love the energy on my photo sets, when everyone is having fun and operating in the fullest of their talents to create something cool together. I also love days where I’m sitting in my home office drinking coffee while playing in Photoshop and seeing something go from a concept to a final image.
When did you come up with the idea of your “Love Yourself” photo series? What is the message you want to spread through this project?
I came up with the idea of the series a few years ago. I’m very attracted to outgoing creative people, as I know it will be fun to work with them. It was really important for me to photograph everyone in a way that represented their personality as well as the hard work they put into their craft. I love being campy, but I wanted to make sure each image treated each subject with respect. Ultimately, I want people to look at the series and respect the humanity of each performer. Drag is both fun and political. Society needs to do some catching up to make sure we all share the same human rights, no matter how we look or identify. We all just want to belong and live in peace.
Where did the photo concepts originate from?
Most of the concepts were inspired by the personalities of each drag performer. I’d pass by a few ideas to each person, and we’d focus on what spoke most to them. I’m also an art director and illustrator, so it was so much fun to sketch out all of the details and choose props and backgrounds and create something unique for each person.
How did you decide to put performers face to face with their drag personas?
A few years ago I created a photo series of my friend Beth called “The Beth Project”, presenting her both before and after losing 150 pounds in the same photograph. It went world-wide viral, from Buzzfeed to People magazine to being interviewed for Good Morning America. I began thinking about showing the many sides of a drag performer in a similar context. And since I’m a fan of drag, it was a great way to reach out to my favourites and learn more about their art form.
How was it working with such Queens as Priyanka, Tynomi Banks, Selena Vyle and many more, as we’ll as with the drag king Hugh Mann Trash? Who was the easiest to work with?
Honestly, all of the drag entertainers were a dream to work with. All of them are really hard workers and have put so much time and effort into their craft. They understand the art of illusion, which is what a lot of my photography is about, so when they got to set they delivered amazingly, both in and out of drag. There were no divas- everyone was approachable and willing to achieve the most memorable photograph!
Share with us some of the backstage events behind the photo shoots.
Hahaha- what happens in my studio stays in my studio. There was a lot of champagne!
How did the pandemic affect your life and your career?
Wow, what a trip it has been. I think all of society is still wrapping our heads around living throughout this pandemic, and if taking it day by day is the best a person can do, then I commend them. As a creative person, we feel things in a very emotional manner, so I’d say there were definitely some hard days. But these tough times allow for moments of great creativity.
You’re currently featuring “30 Days of Pri” on your Instagram feed. Tell us more about the project!
I really like creating my own assignments and projects to continue to challenge myself and keep my mind fresh. The #30DaysOf… concept came to me a few years ago as a way of taking an artist and creating a collection of 30 different portraits of them to be shown over 30 days. So far I’ve created #30DaysOfJesse and #30DaysOfBritt featuring supermodels Jesse Dunphy and Brittany Churchill. #30DaysOfPri is my third addition to the continuing series, featuring drag queen Priyanka. During the first season of Canada’s Drag Race that Pri won, I photographed many of her outfits for her to share with her social media followers throughout the season. #30DaysOfPri is my way of featuring many of the images we created together. I’ll be showing classic images as well as a few surprises on my Instagram account @ShootBlake throughout this month.
Priyanka and I really hit it off while I shot her for my “Love Yourself” series, so it was a natural progression to continue to make images together. Pri is a really creative and special person with a huge heart, and I admire her greatly.
Who are your inspirations and who would you like to have pose for you?
Growing up, I was very inspired by magazines and television. The work of photographer Annie Leibovitz made so much of an impression on me that I interned for her right after graduating photographic studies in college. I had the chance to photograph her while learning under her in New York. I also grew up loving DC comics superhero and action figures, as well as an obsession with the tv show Twin Peaks. I love Twin Peaks so much I created a photo series called “Return to Twin Peaks.” And of course, I would love to photograph RuPaul.
What are your future plans?
I’d love to develop “Love Yourself” into a book project celebrating the art of drag throughout the world. I’m also continuing to work on new projects that I hope will bring joy and inspiration to people. If I’m creating, then I’m happy.
More of Blake Morrow here:
*all images are courtesy of Blake Morrow