Bodybuilders: new photography book showcases UK drag artists

In the photography book Bodybuilders, London and Milan-based artist Alien celebrates the malleability of the human form through her portraits of UK club kids and queers in drag. Flip through its pages and you’ll find a green reptilian face topped with a cowboy hat and ram horns, an elongated, bulbous body formed out of blue plastic, eyes transformed into black pools, backs curved into humps through flesh-toned bodysuits.

(Image credit: Photography by alien, from the book Bodybuilders)

Bodybuilders: a celebration of drag artists

The book is, as its title suggests, a showcase of talented bodybuilders; but here the personalities involved transform their physical form through rigorous artistry rather than athletics. Prosthetics, make-up, and clothing make the human body as pliable as clay, capable of whatever contortions the imagination can manufacture.

As Helen Hester, professor of Gender, Technology and Cultural Politics at the University of West London, writes in the book’s introduction: ‘Each person photographed here has to some extent built himself, channeling not only personal aesthetics, cultural reference points, and intellectual ideas but also unconscious forces – the unknown within us that necessarily finds expression in all our words, actions, thoughts and behaviors.’

Drag artist featured in the book Bodybuilders by Alien

(Image credit: Photography by alien, from the book Bodybuilders)

For Alien, the project was a way of introducing these creatives to an audience outside of the internet. ‘Bodybuilders was created as a way to share collective memories in a tangible and lasting way,’ says Alien. ‘I have always been interested in photographers who have the ability to capture a moment of time, a group of people or a subculture and document them in a way that is not scientific but rather personal and emotional.