2017 was one of the main annus horrible for LGBT people: from roundups and torture in Chechnya to antigay witch hunts in Egypt and Indonesia, closure of queer-friendly health facilities in Tanzania, and a concerted effort by the Trump administration to roll back equal rights in the United States. And we need 2018 to be better, to be a place of expression and not repression. Claire Edkins with her project “Club One” brings us backstage at one of Georgia’s oldest LGBT Clubs to show us the beauty of bodies that are not afraid of change. 

How did you start the project “Club One”? 

Being based in Savannah Georgia (the forever home of a drag legend Lady Chablis) led me to one of Georgia’s oldest and largest LGBT clubs and the glittery dream world of the drag queen. I was shown a world of confidence and bravery in being who you are and expressing yourself through being someone else.

One of the main focuses of your work is the transformation the body experiences before the performance, thanks to make up and costumes. Why did you choose to focus the most of your work on this?

I’m drawn to the idea of transformation and the power that being someone else has to reveal true identity. I also wanted to show the level of artistry and intensity that goes into preparing for a performance. I think the work also shows that behind the sharp humor and beauty in every performance there’s the tension backstage of a room full of artists that take their craft seriously. 

The most of your work is about travelling and getting to know different cultures. Did you recognize a sort of “travel” in the “Club One” project too? A soul’s one, maybe? 

The Club One project taught me how to travel outside of my own world without having to travel geographically. There’s this idea that many photographers have that they have to go to the ends of the Earth to make good work. In reality I think the best place to create is often right where you are because you are there for a reason.

What is the main goal in your photography?

With photography, my main goal is to share the stories of people who may not be able to tell them themselves or the stories that need to be told a little louder for everyone to hear. I want to educate and be taught by the world around me and hopefully have the work I create inspire others to create great change.

Can art and self-expression make us a new version of ourselves?

I think creating art is the most effective way to discover new things about yourself and to sort of unlock your identity. Art can also change the way you view the world and can enlighten you to things you never would’ve known otherwise.

For the first time in four years, Americans are less accepting of LGBT people, a survey finds. More than 20,000 LGBT teenagers in US risk subjection to ‘gay conversion therapy’. It feels like being ourselves is more difficult than ever. Do you think art and photography can do something to change the current situation? 

It’s heartbreaking to me that there are some people in the world that believe in prosecuting others for simply being who they are and loving who they love.  I believe that art and photography in general have shown their power to create change, time and time again. In the US we are currently at a point in our history that is demanding change and art has the incredible power to allow the marginalized and mistreated to have their voices heard loud and clear.