When a photographer is only known by the mononym Alien, you know you’re in for a treat. Bodybuilders is exactly that: a stunning new book by the London and Milan-based photographer which captures a whole host of club kids and drag artists across the UK. As a photographer who often explores themes of identity and queerness through her direct and genuine approach to the camera, portraiture is perfectly situated within Alien’s remit. “I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of dressing up and becoming ‘someone else’ through fashion, makeup and attitude,” Alien tells It’s Nice That. “First as a stylist, then as a photographer, I started creating and putting personas on people who had never met or had never been that gothic lady kid or rockabilly tomboy.” Bodybuilders is a natural extension of Alien’s fascination with personas, only this time “these characters didn’t have to be made up, they already existed and embodied these artists,” she says.
It’s clear in Bodybuilders that Alien lets fellow queer voices speak for themselves – the artist herself being part of a queer transfeminist platform. Author Helen Hester and queer activist Lewis G. Burton write the introductory texts, and the book covers cis women, trans and non-binary people to reflect the shift away from binarism and male domination in drag and club kids. “It seemed important to include a wider perspective to the stereotypical concept of ‘a man in women’s clothes’,” Alien explains. “Also to capture on print a community that is ever-evolving and sometimes getting forgotten.” The book also circles around the theme of ‘extravaganza’, a term originated in the Ballroom voguing scene, “with the idea that life is a performance,” Alien explains. “To me, personally, it is a way of expressing oneself and occupying the space. It’s a desire to be seen in a way that is bold, theatrical but serene.”
Influences during the creation of Bodybuilders included photographers Dana Lixenberg and Wolfgang Tillmans, whose stylistic influences can be clearly traced throughout Alien’s careful compositions with colour, framing and lighting. The book features 30 people, “each of them works on the body, its distortion or embellishment in a different way,” Alien says. They range from current RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star Dakota Schiffer, to Glasgow-mainstay Sgàire Wood, and artist Holly Warcup. “With this project I hope I can expand a sense of belonging, bring representation and positive affirmation and have an impact on insiders and outsiders of the community,” Alien tells us. “Although most of these young kids have a huge audience on digital platforms, their existence on those channels is fluid and sometimes volatile, so I believe it is important to freeze this specific niche in a way that is not so interchangeable, such as in a book. Once it’s there, you can carry it with you forever.”
GalleryAlien: Bodybuilders (Copyright © Alien, 2022)
Alien: Bodybuilders (Copyright © Alien, 2022)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. He was part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.