Magnus Hastings Bob Drag Queen Why Drag

Leading drag photographer Magnus Hastings and his first book, ‘Why Drag?’

When you ask Magnus Hastings why he wanted to create a book devoted to the creativity and lady-like wonder of the drag queen, his reasoning is simple: “Because drag is everything!” He will tell you with enthusiasm.

And he’s not lying. Though it’s an artform that is still restricted to mostly gay bars in every LGBTI-friendly city around the world and is yet to be seen openly and honestly flashed around in broad daylight, drag is fast becoming mainstream. Magnus’ recently printed creation, ‘Why Drag?’ celebrates exactly that.

Through his skill as a photographer, Magnus has achieved a milestone in his own life and a turning point for the popularisation of mainstream drag. ‘Why Drag?’ is a book – a photographic bible of sorts – that celebrates all there is to contemporary drag and shines a bright light on the queens who’ve worked hard to get it so.

Named after the simple question he asks each queen he meets who has given him so much creative content over the years, the book is a modern day archive.

He created the book because drag is where he belongs. From the young cross-dressing, lip-synching boy who’d steal his sister’s clothes and forever play the girl, Magnus has never felt more at home than with the eccentric. His Father even encouraged it.

He wanted to create a piece of history that opens people’s eyes to the world he knows, filled with true artists.

“I want to change preconceived ideas about drag queens and the art of drag to show the diversity and imagination and love that goes into creating this type of performance art,” he said. “The people I have photographed for this book are all so talented and so different in their own ways [everyone deserves to see them].”

For years, after the first discovery of his Father’s old photography equipment and after he painstakingly transformed his childhood bedroom into a darkroom, Magnus had one calling. He bumbled around a bit, teaching himself how to take a good picture, trying his hand in acting and photographing celebrities, but never felt complete. Until now.

“[This] is just what I had to do. It’s a subject I am meant to photograph. The reaction from the queens themselves is what has been phenomenal. People acknowledge that there just hasn’t been a book about drag like this before, which I didn’t set out to claim the title of; I just performed my art,” he said.

And to think, had Magnus not lost his zest for drag and campness as a boy allowing it to take over again when he stepped into Sydney’s Arq nightclub that fateful night back in 2005, ‘Why Drag?’ may never have come to be.

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He stood, transfixed on a performance of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ by ‘queen bee’ of the time Vanity Faire. She quickly went on to become his first muse and from there, Magnus’ drag photography began.

“I was awe-struck. She was just such an extraordinary vision. Obviously’ I’d seen drag before, but this was another level… It wasn’t until I arrived in Sydney that it all flooded back into my life,” he said.

Magnus has forever been about experimentation and self-expression. He celebrates what it means to be creative and admires what others put forward as their interpretation of it.

“I think self experimentation is totally down to the individual. It’s important that anyone should have the options to express themselves how they like with freedom and open-mindedness from others,” he said.

Let him take photographs of it and he’s happy and really comes to life.

Though ‘Why Drag?’ is now completed and printed, for Magnus it is not the end. He says he has only just begun and his hope is that the project will have given him more creative freedom. That will always include drag… Because drag is everything!

You can see more of Magnus’ work through his Instagram here.

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