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Queen St Queens & Friends - Exhibition by Murray Cammick

It’s a kind of a drag!

This series of images of drag queens and their friends in Queen St, circa 1975 were photographed by Murray Cammick while he was doing his V8 series Flash Cars.

The photographer met Keri and Violet Pratt and friends, on their nightly walk from a Customs St cafe to Mojo’s nightclub, opposite the Town Hall.

After each curb side encounter, Cammick would print up postcard-size prints and mail them to Keri and Violet’s home address in Glen Innes. They liked the results and on their next photo-stop, they would once again pose like fashion models with Cammick as their David Bailey.

“Some nights the city was busy and the girls were as high as kites,” recalls Cammick. “To avoid making a scene we’d disappear down a more private arcade or lane to take photos. One impressed onlooker, a US Marine asking me: ‘Where do you get these girls?’ I don’t think I replied. Keri, Violet and I left him standing there, as we headed in different directions.”

The photos in the Auckland Festival Of Photography Show include Keri and Violet’s other family members – their sister frequently and sometimes their brother – plus Glen Innes friends and mates who might be looking for a good time that night.

“Their walk up Queen Street could cause a stir – high fashion, high platform heels and high as a kite,” recalls the photographer. “You would see them approaching and I was usually keen to take photos but sometimes I chose to cross the road to avoid the hassle.”

“In the late 70s there was a mix of subcultures in inner city Auckland. I recall having to run the gauntlet, past Babe’s disco to get to the punk club Zwines in Durham Lane and teen punks have claimed they were harassed by V8 guys. For young guys in drag, some nights, Queen Street must have been like running the gauntlet.”

Sadly, one of Cammick’s Queen Street photos of Violet appeared in the Sunday News (27 July 1980) under the heading: ‘Violet Should Not have Died.’

She had died after being arrested at a nightclub for “not being able to walk without assistance.” Violet died from a drug overdose, when left unattended and semi-conscious in the charging room at Auckland Central Police station. She was 27 and the Sunday News wrote, “Violet had been a transvestite for 11 years and was the most beautiful ‘queen’ in Auckland her friends say.”

Cammick’s portraits of Violet and Keri documented the good times. The photographer is unapologetic: “I am pleased that I captured their dream of being fabulous models. Their beauty was a street reality.”

The photographer’s two recent shows – Flash Cars (2016) and AK•75-85: Music Photos (2017) – were exhibited at Auckland’s Black Asterisk Gallery and Sydney’s Darren Knight Gallery.

Cammick’s photographs are part of the Te Papa Collection and his work appeared in their 2009 publication, Art at Te Papa.

This exhibition of limited edition, silver-gelatin prints were printed directly from the original negatives by Jenny Tomlin.

Queens St is part of the core programme of the 2019 Auckland Festival of Photography - www.photographyfestival.org.nz/programme/exhibitions.cfm

31 May – 16 June
Opening Event: 5:30pm, Friday 31 May
Artist Talk: 1pm Saturday 8 June

Black Asterisk Gallery, 10 Ponsonby Road, blackasterisk.co.nz
Tuesday - Friday 12noon – 5pm; Saturdays 11am – 3pm

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