An Interview with: Audrey Gillespie
First exhibited at Derry's Playhouse Theatre and later Belfast's Menagerie bar, Not Drag by North West Regional College student Audrey Gillespie addresses the local LGBTQ+ community - or lack thereof - and looks at the rise of the female drag artist. The unpolished, lo-fi aesthetic of her 35mm imagery is both thoroughly enticing and cheekily daunting as we as viewers occupy a space of simultaneous intimacy and otherness. We caught up with the Northern Irish photographer to discuss drag, progression and representation.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a 19 year old Fine Art student from Derry, Northern Ireland. I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember and of recent years have been dabbling in a few different media but have found photography to be one of my new favourites. I’m very big on instant gratification. With photography being quick and fast - well, as fast as you can describe working with film - really suffices that need of having it there and then when I create.
Give us an insight in to the complications of female drag artists, and how their growth has been received within the community.
I feel that women doing drag has been taken really well by so many different demographics of people but it’s still within those same groups that those with ignorant and uninformed opinions are the most common reason why complications with the representation of what is and isn’t drag occur .
99% of the time these opinions are combatable or easy to discuss and dispute but there are opinions that get thrown around that dress themselves as facts which, in the long run, cause stereotyping, labelling, limits and boundaries in drag.
I believe drag is fluid. Drag didn’t start as some boys club and it’s sad to see it become stuck in one in its' newfound popularity - although it is being challenged by many, which uplifts me a lot.
Sometimes I feel the effort to tackle these limitations are so "one step forward, two steps back". Due to drag appearing more and more on social media, those who have hate to spread - who wouldn’t normally have a look into any queer spaces - now have their chance to share their usually ignorable comments online.
With that, the negative voices that could be forgotten over time are being turned into immortal statements existing through Facebook comments and Twitter feuds, causing complications with trying to progress from those types of negatives because they’re frozen in time as long as the platform it’s been written on still exists.
It’s a difficult thing to distance yourself from. You can spend a lot of time wrapped up in threads of indirect hate or abuse because it affects the community you come from, but it’s important to recognise that people sometimes spew words on social media just because they can and that it’s not worth the time.
Where do you find yourself shooting most often?
It does vary as I try to work with as many different scenes as I can find or build, but it tends to be bars and the streets of my home town, now that I think about it. When I initially envision where my photos take place I always think of my home or bedroom, but so far I’ve only taken a few in my bedroom, and even less in my home. Maybe I hang out in bars too much.
Your work addresses the LGBTQ+ scene in Derry, Northern Ireland – or lack thereof. How important is it to establish fair representation of a community, and how have you approached this?
I do like to think I’m representing what’s going on in the queer scene here, or at least what’s going on that’s affected me. Of course it’s super important to represent the issues I present as accurately as I can but the situations and issues here vary so much sometimes.
All I can do is speak for myself and hope that it’s relative to someone else who maybe can’t or even just doesn’t want to speak up or be active about it, for whatever reasons. I’m just showing what’s affecting me inside and outside of my city and hopefully encouraging people to join me.
Have you had any thoughts about your post-graduation plans?
I’m so caught up in the now it’s almost like a dream away but I do try to plan for the future and no matter what it's going to involve, creating, exhibiting and collaborating anyway, so as long as I continue doing those I think I can deal with whatever hits me.
Which artists do you look up to most?
There are names I always have in the backlog such as Juno Calypso, Petra Collins and Chloe Sheppard, all young female artists who made it big but I think the one I look up to the most is Megan Doherty - she really struck a chord in me when breaking out of the creative circle here. It’s really easy to get caught up or lose yourself in but she broke out, made a name, is super successful and it’s motivated me ever since.