Art, Politics & Society

Shan Wallace : Glimpses of the Ballroom Scene

Since the 1980s, ballroom culture has gone from underground to almost mainstream.Recent series such as Pose have made it more popular among young generations. ShanWallace’s work shows the ballroom scene that she knows, between West Baltimore andNew York.

A work based on her experience of ballrooms

Born in 1991, the photographer discovered ballrooms In Baltimore, when she was still a teenager. This culture really helped her shape her sexuality and gender expression. She said that as a gay Black woman, she developed an androgynous version of herself, which ran counter to the typical « dominant, butch » lesbian stereotype that prevails. Through voguing, she could express both her feminity and her masculinity (or at least what is seen as feminity and masculinity).

The ballroom scene also represented a community where she belonged. There was a sense of sharing and belonging which meant a lot for this girl who felt different. Her work endeavours to grasp this feeling of community and the intimacy of the ballrooms she participated in.

A vision that differs from mainstream representations

Her vision differs from what we are used to see in representations of the ballroom scene.World-famous series such as Pose have made it popular - and it is great. However,ballrooms do not boil down to the glamorous and romanticized scenes of the series. Shan Wallace does not reject this vision but offers a slightly different one.

Her pictures are much more intimate. They show people who gather in order to dance in front of each other, away from the spotlight and the glam. The shots are moving because they reach the genuine essence of voguing: freely expressing oneself, finally belonging somewhere. Shan Wallace did not only make pictures of people dancing. She also shot them before or afterwards, thus offering glimpses of the community outside the frenzy of the balls. And there lies the core of her art.

Wallace's art is available on her website : http://shanwallace.work/#/ballroom-of-her-youth/

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