THE QUEENS OF QUEEN CITY
Cumberland, Maryland was once the “Queen City”, a hub of industry and culture in Appalachia and second only to Baltimore for the largest urban population in the state. But the story of Cumberland has paralleled that of many once-great cities throughout the Appalachian region: the gradual departure of industry and, with it, a slow descent into economic and cultural stagnation.
But in the cracked pavement, odd flowers appear. In 2015 I discovered a drag pageant showing in a historic theatre in Cumberland’s downtown walking mall. That drag queens exist in post-industrial Appalachia does not particularly surprise me, but what I found inside did: a packed crowd cheering wildly for a passionately delivered show by not one, but twelve drag queens. And I found myself wondering, how is this happening out in the open in a deeply conservative part of America?
The “Queens of Queen City” is a photo-documentary project exploring the courage, risks, and repercussions associated with being openly gay in rural America.