“Legendary allows us to bear witness to a group of people who are courageous enough to create their safe space. . . . In search of beauty, Gaskin’s photographs open our eyes to an extraordinary community of artists who are performing beauty.”—Deborah Willis, judge for the 2012 CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography
In 2012, renowned curator and photographer Deborah Willis chose Gerard H. Gaskin’s longtime project to win the prestigious biennial Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography. Gaskin’s color and black-and-white photographs document the world of house balls, underground pageants where gay and transgender men and women, mostly African American and Latino, celebrate their most vibrant, spectacular selves as they “walk,” competing for trophies based on costume, attitude, dance moves, and “realness.” Scroll down for a photo gallery.
In November 2013, an event at the Center for Documentary Studies celebrated the resulting book launch and accompanying exhibit of Legendary: Inside the House Ballroom Scene, and Gaskin gave a presentation to a standing-room-only crowd. The Legendary exhibit features selections from the book of the same name published by Duke University Press and CDS as part of the First Book Prize, awarded by CDS and the Honickman Foundation. Duke’s Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Library will house Gaskin’s photos following the exhibit.
Gerard H. Gaskin, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, is a freelance photographer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Newsday, Black Enterprise, OneWorld, Teen People, Caribbean Beat, and DownBeat. Among his other clients are the record companies Island, Sony, Def Jam, and Mercury. Gaskin’s photographs have been featured in solo and group exhibitions across the United States and abroad, and his work is held in the collections of such institutions as the Museum of the City of New York and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Deborah Willis, Ph.D., is chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and the recipient of Guggenheim, Fletcher, and MacArthur fellowships, as well as the Infinity Award in Writing from the International Center for Photography. She has been named one of the “100 Most Important People in Photography” by American Photography magazine. Willis’s books include Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery, with Barbara Krauthamer and Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present, among others.