Author: Deborah Nelson
[quote]Garrett’s talent speaks for itself through the artistry of his work. He has an eye for capturing moments.” – Courtney Act[/quote]
I first met Garrett Matthew in the VIP press area in front of the stage at DC’s Capital Pride earlier this summer. I was there with my iPhone taking social media pics and capturing some video interviews. All of the other photographers there were “real” photographers but I could tell they were mainly from local newspapers who probably covered drag exactly once a year. One was different. He had his laptop there, propped up in a corner, open, with a kick-ass intensely amazing pic of Adore Delano on the screen. He looked like he hadn’t slept in three days. He was so focused on the stage that he hardly blinked. So I asked him what his name was.
“My name’s Garrett Matthew,” he answered. OH! I knew who he was! Only one of the most talented drag photographers in the world! He was stressed because he needed to charge his laptop so he could download some pics from his camera’s memory card. It just so happened I had located an outlet at the side of the stage and was using it to charge my iPhone.
Two things became immediately clear. First it was way more important for Garrett to have access to that outlet, and second, I was going to recruit him to shoot for Dragaholic.
I got his number and began the stalking. Here’s what helped. A few days after Capital Pride I had a telephone interview with Courtney Act. It turns out she had met Garrett at the DC club Town Danceboutique the night before the Pride show. (A show I had also been to but had not bumped into Garrett.)
One of the amazing things about Courtney is she really knows her social media and has a great mind and eye for photos. Early on in our interview she mentioned one of Garrett’s photos – an “iconic” shot of her with the U.S. Capitol Building in the background.
Not to embarrass Courtney, but the two of us spent a good five minutes fangurling about Garrett’s photography!
Courtney’s words exactly:
[quote]He was in the dressing room the night before (at Town) and I was like, ‘Hi I’m Courtney’ and he was like ‘Hi I’m Garrett, I take these photos.’ And I was like ‘OH MY GOD! Look at those photos! They’re amazing!’ He genuinely is talented at capturing live performance moments.”[/quote]
Luckily Courtney and her management loved the article I wrote on her and requested that I come to New York to cover her solo show ‘Boys Like Me.’ Uh sure, I can make that happen! Oh and could I bring a photographer for an exclusive photo shoot? Sure! And I knew just whom I was going to invite!
All of the shots from the Courtney photo shoot appear in full size, at the end of this article.
Our photo shoot consisted of two parts: Pre-show shots on the stage at the Laurie Beechman Theatre where ‘Boys Like Me’ has been running for the past month. Then, after the show, an “on location” shoot right in the middle of Times Square, with all of the lights, people and energy! Garrett also snapped some live action shots of Courtney performing her stunning show.
After it was all over I discussed with Garrett his reasons for wanting to shoot Courtney and his comments on the experience:
Deborah: What intrigued you about Courtney? What make her appealing to you as a subject for a photo essay?
Garrett: I think Courtney has a reputation as being very flawless and without vulnerability. I knew that there was a part of her that was very raw and genuine. Just as she shows the audience in ‘Boys Like Me,’ I was hoping with the photo shoot to also show people a different side of her and get something that’s very glamorous and vintage but also has a lot of character so you can see into her soul. I think I accomplished that.
D: I think you definitely accomplished that. I noticed when you shot Courtney you two were so connected. You weren’t really speaking much but magic was happening. So what’s your method?
G: Well, I love how Drag queens get really into modeling. With most models I usually have to spend a half hour to an hour getting them comfortable with the camera. But with drag queens it’s pretty instant. Within ten minutes we get a connection and we figure out what we want from the shoot.
Courtney was a pro at that. I was taking the shots, getting the angles I wanted, modifying things very slightly, like moving an elbow or something that was slightly out of the frame I would correct. But she got all of the poses pretty much on her own. I gave her a little guidance and instantly she had it on point.
D:What goes through your head when you are shooting?
G: I get really “in the zone” when I take pictures. I didn’t even know where I was. Everything just disappeared and it was just her.
D: With the Times Square shoot you both were going out into traffic when the light was red, that’s how you got that amazing shot of her surrounded by the cabs. Did you realize you were playing in traffic?
G: I was really excited about that. I like doing things that I shouldn’t be doing. There’s so much energy there and everybody’s on the same page when we’re doing something like that. The energy and the endorphins were going. We were in the middle of traffic.
D: Yes I know! I felt like my job – other than holding Courtney’s purse – was to keep the both of you from getting hit! If you could shoot Courtney again, what would be your choice of a location?
G: I would have liked to have taken her on top of a roof somewhere so I could copy that Marilyn Monroe shoot where she’s just on the roof, gazing out at the stars at night.
D: Switching it up, I know you have photographed a lot of big name queens like Alaksa, Manila and Adore. Who are you dying to shoot that you haven’t yet?
G: The number one person on my list that I have not shot with yet is Raja. He is never, ever in Philly (where Garrett is based) and when he is he’s here for like six hours. He would be such an amazing model.
D: Is there anybody on the “up and coming” level that you see as somebody you would like to get pictures of?
G: I would love to shoot with Anaol Fetale. She has this very distinctive look about her that I don’t think I’ve really seen before. Her makeup is kind of comparable to my photography. It’s got a lot of clarity to it. She uses a lot of bold, bright colors. I feel like we would be a very good fit to shoot together.
Acid Betty is another one. She is how she sounds. Her name says it all. She’s like club kid drag.
Garett says that he deliberately chose not to study photography but is quite obsessed.
[quote]I literally brought my camera to high school and college every day. When I don’t have my camera with me I feel like I am missing an opportunity, so I’m just always taking pictures.
“I don’t like being told what to do with my art. A lot of schools, the way they teach is they try to make your art the way their art is.
“I think I’m very good at extracting what’s inside. I’ll look through photos and I’ll go ‘Oh wow, that’s a vulnerable moment that that person did not expect to happen.’
“I don’t like my art to feel like it’s made in a laboratory. I like to photograph things that I feel are happening naturally and organically. I would rather capture a moment than create a moment.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they’ve never seen anything like that before, with what I do with my action shots. When someone is performing I’m literally just sitting there with my hand on the shutter waiting until I see something perfect. And then I know that that’s going to be ‘the one’ before I even look at it.
“My photography, to me, is more like a painting. I use Photoshop to enhance the lighting and the colors and clarity and turn it into something that I saw originally in my head. I want to show the world what I see in my mind through my photography.”[/quote]
Garrett is now a part of the Dragaholic team and I look forward to many more photo shoots with him. He’s a pleasure to work with and he’s been my road trip buddy for the summer! We were very lucky to get so much time with Courtney, so Garrett could get all of the shots he needed. A big thanks to Courtney Act and her management team for setting Dragaholic up with this amazing opportunity! If you haven’t seen ‘Boys Like Me’ there are still a few shows left! It’s a great show because, just like Garrett’s photos, it takes you on an emotional and dazzling trip to places you’d never even imagined existed!
For more information on ‘Boys Like Me’ visit SpinCycleNYC.com
To connect with Garrett follow him on Instagram at @gmatthewphoto
Here are all of Garrett Matthew’s sickening shots of Courtney Act. Shot inside the Laurie Beechman Theatre and on location in Times Square